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Analysis Examines 2015 Federal Income Tax Receipt for Iowa, Nation

Health care gets 28 cents of every federal income tax dollar, while the Pentagon and military get 25 cents. (Dodgertonskillhause/Morguefile)
Health care gets 28 cents of every federal income tax dollar, while the Pentagon and military get 25 cents. (Dodgertonskillhause/Morguefile)
April 15, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - Some Iowans will be spending the weekend crunching the numbers on their tax returns ahead of Monday's deadline. But do taxpayers realize exactly where their money goes?

The National Priorities Project's annual breakdown of income tax spending by the federal government showed that the average American paid nearly $13,000 in federal income taxes in 2015. Lindsay Koshgarian, the project's research director, explained how much of each dollar is spent.

"Health care at 28 cents, over 25 cents went to the Pentagon and military, and after that everything is much smaller pieces," she said. "So, for instance, while 25 cents of your dollar went to the Pentagon and military, less than 4 cents went to education."

According to the analysis, health-care spending for the first time was more than military spending. Koshgarian said that's because the costs of health care keep rising.

"That's connected to things like the government's inability to negotiate drug prices through Medicaid, and it's also because there's been a big expansion in Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act," she said. "A lot more people are now receiving Medicaid, and right now this cost is being picked up by the federal government, and we're seeing that in our tax dollars."

Koshgarian noted that while 25 cents of every dollar is spent on the military, only 6 cents of that goes to service members in the form of pay and benefits.

"The vast majority of what we spend on the Pentagon is for services and procurement, and over half of it goes to private contractors," she said, "so there is an entire industry that exists just because of Pentagon spending."

The average taxpayer in Iowa paid nearly $9,500 in federal income tax last year. Income taxes are the biggest source of federal revenue, which Koshgarian said essentially means taxpayers pay the federal government's bills. She said that's why it's important for anyone who pays taxes to know exactly how tax dollars are spent.

Michigan's tax receipt is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA