An itemized receipt for your taxes

Thought this was interesting:

It has been pointed out, though, that it leaves certain things out because it does not include sales taxes and such. Still important work, of course.

It’s federal taxes, not all taxes; unless I missed it, there is no national sales tax (or property tax or other taxes only assessed at the state and/or local level).

I personally think this is a bad idea. Or…I guess it’s more accurate to say that given the fact that it’s nearly impossible for most individuals to agree with all of the tax priorities of their government (and some people resent some of them very strongly), I simply like to think my little slice of tax money goes entirely to something I support.

Decent idea, comically inaccurate sample.

Put aside the technical details for the moment. I don’t know for sure if all their calculations are right. I don’t know why national defense is left off their sample receipt. Medicare and Social Security are funded from a different set of taxes than everything else and therefore have to be calculated differently. I don’t know how you’d divvy up the share of revenue from corporate income taxes, excise taxes, etc. For now, though, let’s assume we could work out all that stuff to everyone’s satisfaction.

But those particular criticisms actually are accounted for by the receipt… it takes into account federal income taxes, as well as FICA (which is what funds Medicare and Social Security). In terms of National Defense, it actually provides a more itemized breakdown of specific types of defense spending, such as military personnel, and the costs of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There’s more to defense spending than Personnel and Iraq/Afganistan. That is unless they just threw everything else under those categories which would seem odd.


I shouldn’t have to point this out since I’m sure you all wouldn’t attack this without reading and comprehending what they’ve put out, but the sample receipt is just that - a sample. It specifically even says “Select Items” and you’ll note the total doesn’t even come close to adding up to the $5,400 in taxes for the “average” taxpayer.

So… all that extra military spending didn’t magically disappear, it just isn’t on here because this is not a complete listing and doesn’t claim to be.

What we need is a receipt for our taxes that shows our medicare and FICA costs!
If people knew how much they were spending on that it would change everything!


Science! Turns out that doing this has no effect.

Tax receipt may be a valuable reform, even if it does not change how Americans feel about their taxes or how they might attempt to cut the budget deficit. Nevertheless, it is perhaps surprising that the receipt had such small effects in this experiment, given how little many Americans know about how the government spends its money.

One possible reason for these small effects was anticipated by two of the tax receipt’s proponents, David Kendall and Ethan Porter, who wrote “Ultimately, a taxpayer receipt would be a political Rorschach test. In it, people would see what they already believe is right or wrong about government spending.” If so, then we might expect the correct facts presented in a taxpayer receipt to buttress existing partisan or ideological arguments, not to supplant them

“I’m spending how much on Pell Grants and NASA?”

I would suspect some political bias in that “receipt” due to how they breakdown the expenditure. According to this defense spending is equal to social security, but while they’ve broken defense spending into more digestible and palatable chunks, like “veteran’s benefits” (I mean who could disagree with paying veterans benefits) they don’t do the same with social security.

Buh? I guess you could carve out disability vs. retirement payments, but I don’t see why that’d make a difference.

Well maybe I’m mistaken, but it looks to me like someone is using that receipt to play up social and medical costs, but hide defense spending by cutting it up into smaller, less ugly, chunks, like “veteran’s pay”. Even if it is just accidental, it shows how such receipts can be manipulated to paint a picture from a political perspective. I mean why not break down social security into smaller, more palatable, chunks like “payments to the disabled”?

Like Jason pointed out: there are only two chunks.

He didn’t say that at all. I’m struggling to see what point you are making. You can clearly break down any spending into more than “two chunks”. Just a quick overview of social security grabbed from wikipedia:

Federal Old-Age (Retirement), Survivors, and Disability Insurance
Unemployment benefits
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Health Insurance for Aged and Disabled (Medicare)
Grants to States for Medical Assistance Programs (Medicaid)
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

And that could be broken down even more, even you were so motivated.

I don’t know. The receipt seems a bit strange. The figures don’t even add up. There’s a lot of military spending not mentioned there. Where’s the spending on the “global war on terror”, a figure almost as high as that spent on Medicaid.

The “two chunks” I was referring to are Federal Old-Age (Retirement), Survivors, and Disability Insurance and SSI, which is what “Social Security” is usually taken to mean.

TANF, unemployment, Medicare, and Medicaid actually are listed as separate items on the polled receipt. I think SCHIP is budgeted with Medicaid, and PPACA with Medicare. Some of these are enacted as amendments to the act but no one would think of them as “Social Security” in the American context, where it refers to the specific program.

Thinking about this more a receipt full of context free numbers with no graphs at all is going to result in a really shitty poll result. Hrm.

SS and medicaid are not the same thing budget wise and would already be broken up into different categories, same with unemployment and all that. Social security would be SSI and the normal old age benefits and disability payments. That is it, I dont know why wikipedia lists all that stuff as things that would be in the social security part of the budget pie.

You know you’re wrong when both brett and Jason are in agreement.