Where Does Your Tax Money Really Go?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The only thing more aggravating than having to fork over hard-earned cash to Uncle Sam for taxes is not knowing if that money goes to good use, but as tax season comes to a close, the U.S. government is offering consumers an inside look at where their tax dollars really go.

The vast majority of the money you pay in income taxes goes toward job and family security programs, health care costs and national defense, according to an official federal tax payer receipt released by the White House. Just more than 26% of your federal tax money is allocated for national defense, including military salaries and equipment costs, making it the single biggest slice of the pie, while health care, which includes programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, receive 24% of tax funds and family security programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps take up 22%.

To use real numbers, a married couple earning $80,000 with two children, for example, would pay roughly $3,863 in federal income taxes, $1,015 of which would go toward national defense funds, while $938 would go toward health programs and $846 would be allocated for job and family security programs.

Aside from these programs, consumers have significantly smaller percentages of their money directed toward other programs like education (4.8%), veterans’ benefits (4.1%) and NASA ventures (1.2%). An even smaller fraction (0.4%) of our funds is directed toward the government’s response to natural disasters. So again, in real numbers, that means the family above contributes $46 to space programs and just $15 to make sure the government has the funds to rescue them if their town is ravaged by a major storm.

The tax receipt does not factor in where money in state taxes goes, but it’s still a useful tool to better understand why we pay income taxes. In fact, some groups have argued that consumers are entitled to a receipt like this when paying their taxes, just as one expects a receipt when making any normal purchase. So perhaps in the coming years, the Internal Revenue Service can adopt this tax receipt and send it to consumers after they file their returns.

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