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What's Your 2018 Federal Taxpayer Tab?

Americans can get a personalized 2018 tax receipt showing how their money was spent at (National Priorities Project)
Americans can get a personalized 2018 tax receipt showing how their money was spent at (National Priorities Project)
April 15, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Taxes may be as certain as death, and some experts say what also should be certain is knowing exactly how our tax dollars are being spent.

According to new data, the average American paid about $14,000 in federal income taxes in 2018. The National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies crunched the numbers, and the largest chunk of every tax dollar, nearly 30 cents, goes to health care.

Program director Lindsay Koshgarian said military spending encompasses the second biggest share, at 24 cents. However, she noted, less than 5 cents of that goes to troop pay and benefits, while 12 cents goes to military contractors.

"Just for a point of comparison, Lookheed Martin got $48 billion. The entire budget for the Environmental Protection Agency is about $8 billion,” Koshgarian said. “So this is a huge amount of money that is going to federal contractors."

The average taxpayer spent about $100 on K-12 education, which is the same amount on immigration and border patrol, including family separations. About 15 cents of each tax dollar went to federal interest in the national debt; 7 cents to unemployment and labor; and 6 cents to veterans.

Koshgarian said federal crisis response is being funded at the expense of crisis prevention. She explained the average taxpayer paid $179 to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes and wildfires.

"And those disasters, we know, are probably exacerbated by climate change,” she said. “And so the $179 is 22 times as much as you contributed to renewable energy, which is only $8 for the average taxpayer."

Individual income taxes account for half of all federal government revenues, which Koshgarian said is a lot more than corporate taxes.

"Back in 2017, individuals were paying $7 for every $1 paid by a corporation, and today that number's gone up to $11,” she said. “Individuals are carrying more of the burden for funding the federal government compared to what they used to."

Corporations paid 47 percent less in income taxes during the first five months of fiscal year 2019, compared with the same period in 2017.

This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH