The Tax Man Cometh: Ever Wonder How He Spends Your Money?

Every year you repeat the same tired task. You collect all your receipts forms, and related tax information and either settle in for a marathon self-preparation session, or you hand it all over (along with a few hundred bucks, give or take) to your tax preparer. When all's said and done, you'll see exactly how much money the federal government took from your paychecks, but you certainly don't see an itemized list of where that money will go.

However, in his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged to develop a new online tool that would allow every American to see precisely how the government spends his or her annual tax payments. The resulting and first-of-its-kind public website, “My Federal Tax Receipt,” launched last year and was just recently updated to reflect current spending. The tool is an online calculator, located at www.whitehouse.gov/2011-taxreceipt. Once there, you simply enter your income tax, Medicare tax Social Security tax, and a detailed calculation of how your tax dollars are allocated pops up on the screen.

Having a better understanding of what we pay for and how makes us stronger citizens, and let’s face it, its information we deserve to know.

But you don't actually have to do anything at all to satisfy your general curiosity — after all you could just simply scan the numbers and learn how much of the collective federal income tax is allocated where, as its all broken into categories and subcategories and measured by percentage. While the information on the site is incredibly informative, intriguing, and perhaps even a bit surprising, I'd be less than honest if I neglected the site's democratic political bent, but the information is still interesting, despite the occasional overt partisan prose.

Exploring the site is a fascinating way to see where your national priorities lie when compared to those of the government. How much goes to job development and education compared to health care? How does health care rank when it comes to foreign policy and even foreign aid? Most of us don't have a clue let alone how much tax money is allocated to each different cause.

The programs and services funded by your income tax, as well as the percentage of your total income-tax payment they receive, are as follows:

National Defense                                                                                24.9%
Health Care                                                                                        23.7%
Job and Family Security                                                                    19.1%
Education and Job Training                                                                3.6%
Veterans Benefits                                                                               4.5%
National Resources, Energy, and Environment                                   2.0%
International Affairs                                                                            1.6%
Science, Space, and Technology Programs                                        1.0%
Immigration, Law Enforcement, and Administration of Justice            2.0%
Agriculture                                                                                           0.7%
Community, Area, and Regional Development                                    0.5%
Response to Natural Development                                                      0.4%
Additional Government Programs                                                       7.9%
Net Interest                                                                                          8.1%

In addition to these statistics, the site offers a great deal of interesting content. Curious about foreign policy issues, for instance? You'll easily find your way to a cache of information including everything from the National Security Strategy, Obama's National Strategy for Counter Terrorism, and short pieces describing things such as “Refocusing on the Threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” to other stories that tout presidential achievements such as “Stopping a Massacre and Supporting the Libyan People” or “Promoting Peace and Security in Israel and in the Middle East.”

In addition to these 14 major categories, there are an additional 41 subcategories to break the spending down further into segments such as “Ongoing operations, equipment, and supplies,” which consumes 10.3 percent of the total slice of pie that goes toward National Defense, or “Child care, foster care, and adoption support,” a subset of the Jobs and Family security category that sees only 0.6 percent of its share of your tax dollars.

The site certainly warrants a visit, regardless of your political affiliation. Having a better understanding of what we pay for and how makes us stronger citizens, and let’s face it, its information we deserve to know.

Photo courtesy of: http://woinvestments.com/Portals/0/Foto/UncleSam.JPG