Should You Get a Receipt for Your Taxes?

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Whether you buy an expensive new suit or a slice of pizza, the seller usually gives you a receipt for your purchase. So why shouldn’t the same be true when you pay your taxes?

Last month, a mdoerate think tank called Third Way released a proposal to make the government more fiscally responsible. As part of this proposal, the group suggested introducing a taxpayer receipt, which would essentially provide consumers with an itemized list of all the places their tax money was spent.

According to Third Way, not only do consumers have a right to know where their money goes, but by making it easier for consumers to find the information it might also change our attitude toward government spending.

“Progressives might have a better chance of winning greater funding levels for programs that invest in children, education, energy, environment, transportation, innovation, foreign aid, humanitarian assistance and housing if taxpaying citizens have a better idea of how their money is spent,” the proposal said. “At the same time, Americans might encourage Congress to be more fiscally responsible if they saw how much of their actual taxes went for things like interest on the national debt.”

The authors of the proposal used information from the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Management and Budget to produce a sample of what such a tax receipt might look like. They used the example of a consumer earning $34,140 a year and paying $5,400 in federal income taxes. Most of this money goes toward Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as one might expect, but the next two largest items on our tax tab are paying off interest on the national debt and paying for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, each of which total more than $200 a year in this case.

Of course, there are dozens if not hundreds of other government programs that benefit from taxpayer money, albeit in smaller portions. Of the $5,400 that this hypothetical taxpayer pays in a year, $63 goes to building highways, $28 goes to NASA and a little more than $1 goes to the Smithsonian Museum. Ironically, the IRS itself gets only a small fraction, just $17 in this example.

As the authors note in their proposal, the idea for a taxpayer receipt has been around for years since being first introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) back in 1997, but has not yet come to pass. It remains to be seen whether this proposal will reignite the debate.

Would you like the IRS to provide you with a receipt for your tax dollars? Do you think it would change the way you view government spending? Tell us your opinions in the comments section!

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