Local Government Revenue Sources - Counties

County governments throughout the United States collect revenue from a variety of sources including taxes, user charges, intergovernmental payments, and various other sources. Depending on specific services offered by the County and the unique regulatory and political environment the specific source of revenue can vary considerably from government to government. GFOA has prepared the following revenue dashboards for all County governments in the United States.

Major Revenue Sources for U.S. Counties

The following image shows revenue sources for all county governments in the United States. The top image shows aggregate revenue and can be filtered by state or population size. The bottom image can be filtered to highlight any specific county.

Source: U.S. Census Data (2017)

For all counties in the U.S., the largest revenues sources are 1) aid from the state, 2) property taxes, 3) user charges, and 4) sales and use taxes.

Individual revenue diversification in any one county will vary and GFOA has noted trends for counties by population size and specific state.

Revenue from Local Taxes

The following interactive dashboards show the portion of revenue collected from local taxes, including property taxes, sales and gross receipts taxes, local income taxes, and excise taxes. In addition, the charts show how common it is for counties to rely on each revenue source.

Note: If revenue is collected at the state level as a tax (for example as a sales tax) and then distributed to county governments at a later point, that revenue has been categorized as intergovernmental aid.

Source: U.S. Census Data (2017)

Revenue from Other Governments

The dashboards in this section show the revenue collected by counties from federal and state aid programs. In many cases, the revenue is tied to specific services the county provides.

Source: U.S. Census Data (2017)

Revenue from User Fees and Charges

User charges and fees result from enterprise type activities and specific services provided to customers in exchange for a payment. Revenue aggregated as a user fee or charge includes utilities fees for water, wastewater, gas, electric or solid waster services, transit operations, tuition, highway tolls, parks and recreation programs, and other fee based services provided by counties.

Revenue from Fines

In addition to user charges, governments collect revenue from fines and forfeitures. Unlike user charges or fees, fines generally should not be used with the goal of raising revenues. Rather, fines are meant to punish transgressors and deter potential transgressors. Forfeitures are when a citizen’s private property is confiscated. Similar to a fine, forfeitures are used as a deterrent or punishment. Unlike fines, the resource taken from the citizen may not be monetary— a citizen might forfeit other types of property.

The following dashboards indicate the share of revenue for each county that is generated from fees and forfeitures including a highlight for the counties that generate more than 10% of their revenue from this source.