Tax Day is here! Now that we’ve crunched the numbers, filed our paperwork and treated ourselves to a Tax Day discount (margaritas are our treat of choice), we are wondering: Where are our tax dollars actually going?
Enter USAFacts.org, a non-partisan database from Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, that will help you answer that question. It compiles information from more than 70 government resources to help you find out how paid taxes from individuals, corporations and others are being used at the federal, state and local levels.
At the site, data nerds and curious citizens alike can dig into where tax revenue comes from ($5.2 trillion in 2014, with one-third coming from individual income taxes), how much is spent ($5.4 trillion in 2014, with 35% going to wealth and savings) and everything in between.
For example, curious how many people work for the U.S. government? It's higher than you might think, at over 23 million. The national college graduation rate? At 59% in 2012. The amount spent on national defense? The number of licensed drivers in the country? Search away.
The idea launched from a conversation Ballmer had with his wife, Connie, when she suggested that he get involved with her philanthropic efforts. Wondering why he couldn't clearly see how the government used his own tax dollars to help those in need, Ballmer began the quest to figure out how the government spends its revenue.
The $10 million endeavor has been three years in the making and includes efforts from a team of economists, professors and other professionals.
"I would like citizens to be able to use this to form intelligent opinions," Ballmer said to The New York Times. "People can disagree about what to do — I'm not going to tell people what to do," adding that he hopes users will look at how the numbers break down not only at the national level, but within their local governments as well.
Once you dig into the site, you may have a better understanding of what public goods and services your tax money is going toward and what issues matter most to you. If anything, it could be a good conversation starter over those celebratory margaritas.