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How your tax dollars are spent

As today winds down, we're all looking at ways to make sure we pay Uncle Sam the least  possible amount when we file our returns next year. If you're still searching for tax savings, check out some last-minute tips and to-dos from yesterday's roundup.

Uncle sam hat with money3 But when it comes to the tax money you finally do have to pony up, do you know exactly what it pays for? According to some polls, many of us don't. So to help us get a better tax spending grasp, a couple of MIT grads created the Tax Breakdown Project.

The Web site takes Office of Management and Budget data and then, when you plug in how much taxes you paid, it shows you which federal agencies spent what part of your IRS bill.

To get an idea, Tax Breakdown defaults to $7,554.50, the average tax amount in 2008. That figure represents, according to the site, 0.000000260332938 percent of the almost $3 trillion total federal budget.

The bulk of that IRS payment, 24.096 percent or $1,820.35, was funneled to the Department of Health and Human Services. The least amount went to the Department of Homeland Security, which got $112.46 or 1.489 percent of the average tax payment.

In between, the average taxpayer's cash went to:

  • Social Security Administration: $1703.79 (22.553%)
  • Department of Defense--Military: $1518.48 (20.1%)
  • Department of the Treasury: $1366.72 (18.091%)
  • Others: $453.32 (6.001%)
  • Department of Agriculture: $231.76 (3.068%)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs: $216.83 (2.87%)
  • Supplementals not Offset by Spending Reductions: $191.84 (2.539%)
  • Department of Transportation: $174.51 (2.31%)
  • Office of Personnel Management: $167.03 (2.211%)
  • Department of Education: $152.56 (2.019%) 
  • Department of Labor: $136.14 (1.802%)
  • Other Defense Civil Programs: $127.82 (1.692%)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development: $115.59 (1.53%)

If you want to see how the funds were dispersed within each area, click on the plus sign in front of each department.

And if you're obsessive like me, you've added up all the amounts and see that they come to more than the $7,554.50 tax bill entered. The Tax Breakdown guys say that's because they've lumped all taxes together, just like the federal budget, from which they get their numbers, does.

Also, say the calculator creators, "We feel that it is disingenuous when politicians neglect payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare taxes) when discussing the federal budget. Payroll taxes account for the majority of federal taxes paid for many families, and earmarking the money for special programs does not make it 'not count'."

Me, I essentially ignored the numbers. It's not that I don't care how big a check the hubby and  I have to write the IRS each year. Rather, I'm more fascinated with all the possible places our money goes.

In the "Others" category above that accounts for 6 percent of taxes collected in the average taxes paid example, there are 86 other line items, most of which are subdivided even further!

The federal spending list is longer than the never-ending credits that roll when a movie ends.

Hat tip to @DINKs_Finance

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The Finance Department is the steward of both the property tax and sales tax revenues collected by the City. These revenues are used to fund City services and run day to day operations of the City.
One percent of the all City Sales Tax revenues are used to finance City programs and services. City Sales Tax is the largest general government revenue source for the City. In addition, one half of a percent of the sales tax revenues is allocated for the Transportation Sales Tax, which is used solely to finance transportation improvements, such as streets.

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