Interactive Calculator Shows You Exactly Where Your Taxes Go

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Where does my tax money go?As tax season enters its final days, the yearly political battle over government spending is reaching a fever pitch. Pundits and politicians are leaping once again into the fray, dragging with them the same old tired arguments about welfare, defense spending, Medicare, foreign aid, and all the other traditional tax-debate villains. Meanwhile, the real question -- exactly how are our tax dollars spent? -- usually disappears beneath the avalanche of partisan rhetoric.

Recently, ONE, a nonprofit group that fights global poverty, unveiled an interactive tool that enables users to see how much they pay in taxes, and where Taxesthat money goes. Here it is:


According to ONE, a single taxpayer, making the average household income of $49,445, pays $8,486 in taxes before exemptions. Of that, the biggest chunk, over $1,740, goes to Social Security and $1,082 goes to Medicare. The other big expenditures are similarly unsurprising: defense spending eats up $1,601 and unemployment insurance eats up $1,295.

Some other expenses are a bit more shocking. For example, almost 6% of taxes go to pay interest on America's debt, while less than 10% goes to health care spending. As for the country's embattled foreign aid allocations, they account for a minuscule 0.95% of all federal spending.

What about the classic budget villains, like the education system, food assistance programs, and school lunches? Well, on ONE's tax tool, these -- along with hundreds of other programs covering everything from insurance for children to rental assistance to the cost of printing currency -- are included in "Other," a catchall that totals just over 16% of the budget. Put in context, this means that the combined price of most government programs costs less than the defense budget or Social Security, and just a few percentage points more than Medicare.

Digging a little deeper, our government's spending priorities become even clearer. For example, education totals about 2% of the federal budget -- less than one-ninth of what goes to the military, or about $169 per year for an average household. Federally-funded science and medical research accounts for about the same amount, while transportation spending gets 3%. Put another way, America spends about six times as much on its military as it does on its roads, airports, bridges, trains and other transportation infrastructure.

Click the calculator below to see just where your tax dollars are going this year.

tax calculator

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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