Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
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Where Tax Dollars Went Last Year

Apr 17, 2017 | Taxes

In honor of Tax Day tomorrow, we've published our annual Taxpayer Receipt, which gives a line-by-line breakdown of where tax dollars go.

For example, did you know that three-quarters of all spending goes toward Social Security, health programs, defense, and interest payments? How about the fact that the government spends more on interest than transportation, education, and justice programs combined?

This chart shows how all federal tax dollars were spent in 2016 – not just the income tax but also payroll taxes and excise taxes. It's based on looking at "budget functions," which measures spending by what it's spent on, not which agency is doing the spending. For instance, the FBI's counter-terrorism budget is counted under "Defense" and other parts of the FBI's budget are classified as "Justice."

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the receipt, with a visual representation of the same information. This visual categorizes items slightly differently than the receipt above (e.g., "Defense and military benefits" is split into "National Defense" and "Veterans"). A sortable table with all the categories is available in the article.

 For more information about taxes – including who pays for them, how they have changed over time, and how they are collected – see our Tax Chartbook.

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