Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 04/18/2011

Tax day! Where do your tax dollars go?

Should we get a receipt of how our tax dollars are spent? (Leah L. Jones/The Washington Post)
There are 72,536 pages in the 2011 tax code. That’s 59 times more pages than “War and Peace.”

If you are one of the millions of Americans waiting until the very last minute to file, stop reading, stop procrastinating and go file an extension. Then you can have until Oct. 17 to delay the unavoidable.

For the responsible taxpayers out there, it may seem a relief to be done, but the payment day is just the beginning. With our country locked in a budget debate, there’s no better time to think about where all the money goes.

The Post’s Ezra Klein writes about one way of tracking how the money is being spent: each taxpayer would receive a receipt of purchases paid for. It would read something like this, for $10,000 paid in federal taxes:

Social Security $5,000

Medicare $1,160

Defense $1,015

Health-care programs $938

Job and income security programs $850

Interest on the debt almost $300

Education $185

Environmental and energy policy $81

International spending $65

Agricultural programs $30

Google had a similar idea back in February when it asked developers to come up with a way to visualize all the tax dollar data in the “Data Viz Challenge.”

(Screengrab from “Where Did My Tax Dollars Go.”)
From 40 submissions, the winning prize “Where Did My Tax Dollars Go,” breaks the spending down into an interactive pie chart that details what your contribution bought. From that same $10,000 example, $11 went to maintain the Air Force, $1 went to space explorations and $2 went to border protection.

The collection of entries is a fascinating look into the government’s spending process. As soon as that stamp is licked and the tax filing sent off, most of us prefer to stop thinking about taxes. These projects might make you think about them a little longer than that.

By  |  11:35 AM ET, 04/18/2011

Tags:  Daily Catch

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