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'Taxpayer receipt' tells you where your money goes

White House provides online calculator that breaks down your tax payment the way it is allocated by the fedral government -- at least most of it.

By Kay Bell Apr 20, 2011 11:16AM

I hope all y'all came through Tax Day relatively unscathed.


Even though most people get refunds when they file their returns, it's still no fun to fill out the forms detailing how much of our money goes to Uncle Sam.


Exactly how that money is and will be spent is the prime topic nowadays on Capitol Hill. Congress finally agreed last week on a budget to keep federal offices open through Sept. 30.


Discussions on the next fiscal year budget, however, are likely to be more difficult.


A lot of the debate centers on which programs get how much money. Several organizations have created graphics depicting the expenditures


But the most popular populist budget tool right now is the taxpayer receipt. Advocacy groups have devised programs to break down our taxes to a more personal level.


Now the White House is getting in on the act.


The Obama Administration has released its version of an online federal taxpayer receipt calculator. 


You enter the amount you paid in Social Security, Medicare and Income taxes. You'll find those amounts on your W-2s (boxes 4 and 6, respectively) and the Form 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ) you just sent to the IRS.


If you filed a while ago and don't have the documents handy, the federal taxpayer receipt program lets you pick an income level to get a rough idea of where your tax dollars go.


The breakdown, sort of


There are 14 federal categories that get a part of your income tax payments go. Spending in eight of those areas are detailed further.


But there's also a general catch-all category, Additional Government Programs, which takes up 2.4% of our tax money. What that includes isn't spelled out. 


I guess it's the White House's version of "fun" that some of us try to slip into our own household budgets.


Now I'll admit that 2.4% isn't a lot, especially when we're looking at:

  • National defense eating up 26.3% of our taxes. 
  • Health care taking a 24.3% bite.
  • Job and family security programs (such things as unemployment insurance, military and civilian federal employee retirement and tax breaks that subsidize child care, earned income, adoption, Making Work Pay and child tax credits) scarfing down 21.9% of the money you and I pay each year in taxes.

But if you're going to spell out where the money goes, spell out every last cent.


Mandating taxpayer receipts


Some members of Congress want to go beyond fun online playthings. They are trying to make personal taxpayer receipts the law of the land.


Senate Finance Committee member Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., have introduced S. 437, the Taxpayer Receipt Act.


A companion bill, H.R. 1527, has been introduced in the House by Representatives Mike Quigley, D-Ill; Todd Platts, R-Pa.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Aaron Schock, R-Ill.; and Dave Reichert, R-Wash.


The bipartisan measures would require the IRS to provide to every taxpayer that files an income tax return an itemized receipt detailing where their payroll and income taxes are spent and the amount of debt each of us helps cover.


The sample taxpayer receipt provided by Nelson and Brown looks very similar to the White House one, even including a line item for "All other net federal spending." In this version, that comes to 7.09% of expenses.


I also wonder whether the sponsoring congressmen and their colleagues will take the cost to produce the millions of receipts into account when they decide on the IRS' annual budget.


When you're watching the bottom line, every cent counts.

More from Don't Mess with Taxes and MSN Money:


Apr 20, 2011 5:05PM

The last paragraph is the most important.  Just how much will all these receipts cost the government (and therefore, the US tax payer)?  How much will such a receipt help any of us.  There isn't enough detail, and therefore can't really tell us much.  those who don't like paying for wars will complain, as will those who pay for others' unemployment, or any particular expenditure.  It's a waste of time, paper? and money. 

The heck with the cost. It is about time the butt-heads in Washington be held accountable for how they spend our money. The first cut tells a lot about how taxpayers get stuck paying for a lot of stuff that we should not have to pay for. The CHIP program for one needs to be eliminated. Let the child's parents pay for this. Retirement money to people who didn't pay into Social Security also has to end. If the government wants to give these people a pension then it has to be funded by the people who will receive those benefits, this includes those elected to office.
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