Monday, October 4, 2010

The Itemized "Taxpayer Receipt"

What You Paid For

2009 tax receipt for a taxpayer earning $34,140 and paying $5,400 in federal income tax and FICA (selected items)
Social Security$1,040.70
Medicare $625.51
Interest on the National Debt$287.03
Combat Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan$229.17
Military Personnel$192.79
Veteran’s Benefits$74.65
Federal Highways$63.89
Health care research (NIH)$46.54
Foreign Aid$46.08
Education Funding for Low Income K-12 Students$38.17
Military Retirement Benefits$32.60
Pell Grants for Low Income College Students$29.75
NASA Space Program$28.09
Internal Revenue Service$17.69
Environmental Clean Up (EPA)$11.67
The FBI$11.21
Head Start$10.91
Public Housing$10.50
National Parks $4.27
Drug Enforcement Agency$3.14
Amtrak $2.23
Smithsonian Museum$1.22
Funding for the Arts$0.24
Salaries and benefits for members of Congress$0.19

Wouldn't it be nice when you pay your taxes if you could get an itemized receipt of where your money is going?  A D.C.-based policy group called "The Third Way" has produced a policy paper called "A Taxpayer Receipt," from which the above table is taken for the median tax filer in 2009 making an adjusted gross income of $34,140, and paying $2,790 in federal taxes, and $2,610 in Social Security and Medicare "contributions," for a total federal tax bill of $5,400.

"Corn syrup, milk chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, coconut, almond, soy lecithin… any consumer can read these ingredients and their nutritional value on every package of a75-cent Almond Joy. What is provided to a taxpayer with a $5,400 tax bill? Nothing. For many Americans, the amount they pay in taxes is larger than any purchase they make during the year, but studies show they know almost nothing about where that money goes.

An electorate unschooled in basic budget facts is a major obstacle to controlling the nation’s deficit, not to mention addressing a host of economic and social problems. We suggest that everyone who files a tax return receive a “taxpayer receipt.” This receipt would tell them to the penny what their taxes paid for based on the amount they paid in federal income taxes and FICA."

A slightly different version of an interactive itemized tax receipt calculator exists at a website called Where My Money Goes, which allows you to put in any income amount and see an itemized tax receipt.

Grouch:  I think this is a superb idea and should be required for all levels of government, federal, state and local, so taxpayers can see where their money is going.  Personally, I'm not too happy paying so much for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care research, foreign aid, education, Pell grants, the IRS, head start, the EPA, public housing, national parks, the DEA, Amtrack, and anything for the arts.  I am also highly skeptical taxpayers are getting a bargain with social security, medicare and medicade.


  1. Wow, this is fascinating. However, I am confused. I thought social security tax was 6.2 percent. But according to the itemization, this person pays less than that for sure. Am I missing something?

    We definitely deserve these details. When will the line show up that says 'amount paid on your neighbor's house'?

  2. This is definitely not a bad idea. Of course, it ignores the unseen effects of that spending as well as employer spending, but it is better than nothing.

  3. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the numbers in this example, but I love the concept. I think everyone should know how their tax dollars are being spent. It is the ultimate in transparent government (I do believe I heard that phrase somewhere within the past two years). As for the effects of government spending.... every penny they spend has to come from somewhere, money the taxpayers can no longer spend because it has been confiscated, or the gov have to print it; either way it is sucked out of the economy and spent less efficiently than if it had been left with the people who earned it in the first place.

  4. If thats my bill, I'm definitely being over charged. There will be no tip.

  5. I personally spend more on income taxes alone than I do on both transportation and shelter combined.. heck I think even with food I still pay more in income taxes alone. If we demonopolized many of government's functions, I truly wonder if I would have to pay that much in a free economy for the same goods & services.

  6. What an interesting post. I have to say, it makes sense for us to be able to see the actual breakdown. If it's anything like the figures above, I will feel like I have been quite generous in my helping of others, as reflected in aid to foreign countries in particular. Puts things in perspective.