Tax Day 2019

Where Your 2018 Tax Dollar Was Spent

Lindsay Koshgarian | Ashik Siddique


Tax Day is April 15, 2019, the last day to file our tax returns for all income received in 2018. Want to know what your taxes pay for? Check out our resources below. They include a breakdown of where the federal government spends your tax dollars, a tool that let’s you calculate your own tax receipt or see an average for your state, a tool that let’s you make up your own federal spending choices, some surprising tax day facts, and more.

Key Findings:

  • Pentagon & Military — the average U.S. taxpayer pays more to private military contractors than funds that directly support the troops
  • Nuclear weapons — the U.S. spends more on proliferating weapons of mass destruction than we do on foreign aid and diplomacy, the EPA, or CHIP
  • Education — the U.S. government spend as much taxpayer money separating families as it does on K-12 education
  • Health care — this is the taxpayer’s biggest tab, with Medicare and Medicaid providing health care for 1 in 3 people in the U.S.
  • Climate, Energy, & Environment — many more of your tax dollars go to disaster relief than to investments like renewable energy that could help prevent the worst disasters
  • Poverty and Low-Income — in the age of growing income inequality, the average taxpayer contributes more to private DoD contractors than to labor and unemployment programs

Calculate Your Own Tax Receipt

Your Federal Income Tax Receipt

Some people think the federal government should give them a receipt for their income taxes to show where all that money went. While you may not get a receipt from the IRS any time soon, National Priorities Project went ahead and wrote one up.

Seven Surprising Tax Facts for 2019

Did you know that with your tax money, the government spends more on nuclear weapons than on the Environmental Protection Agency, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program? Or that health care is the biggest item on your tax receipt? Have you thought about how spending on disaster relief compares to spending on agencies designed to curb the climate change that accelerates those disasters? Download our fact sheet for some surprising 2019 Tax Day facts.

Notes and Sources

Tax Day shows how your individual income taxes were spent. Those are a portion of the taxes withheld from your paycheck, and due this year on April 15, 2019. Tax Day materials do not include corporate taxes or the individual payroll taxes that directly fund Social Security and Medicare. To read more about where federal revenues come from, visit Where the Money Comes From.

Our Tax Day materials show how federal funds were spent during fiscal year 2018, the time period that most closely corresponds to the calendar year for which income taxes are due. In order to do this analysis, we separate federal funds from trust funds. Trust funds, generated from sources such as payroll taxes, can only be used for specific programs like Social Security and Medicare. All other funds are federal funds, including revenue from your federal income taxes, and can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

We use analyzed federal fund “outlays” for FY 2018 from the FY 2020 Budget as reported by the White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) and available from the Government Printing Office. These are the most recent available data for legally enacted federal spending at the time of publishing.

Help Spread the Word: #TaxDay2019 #ShowTheReceipts

Help us spread the word about our Tax Day findings by sharing the images below with the hash tags #ShowTheReceipts and #TaxDay2019

Download our Key Facts and Findings [PDF]

Media Contacts:

Robert Alvarez