Would you like a receipt?
Washington News Bureau:
In a classic episode of ;e Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden suddenly ;nds himself an unfortunate casualty of a widespread layo; at the bus company. He conducts an impromptu ;nancial “stress test” and asks his wife Alice to calculate all the savings, rainy day funds, and any “mad money” she
has hidden around. “Now when we add all that up, what do we have?” he asks.
She calmly responds that taking everything into account, they currently have an aggregate portfolio
of roughly $12. In his trademark bellicose fashion, Ralph insinuates that she lost track of the household
;nances and lobs a charge that she squandered it.
I can sympathize with Ralph, as I often ;nd myself asking, “Where did it all go?” after reviewing my
quarterly checking and bank statements.
But while millions of households di;er on their ;nancial acumen and organization with regard to
their personal ;nances, I wonder how many actually know where their tax monies go post-;ling.
With tax season winding down on the 18th of this month and myriad pledges swirling around Capitol
Hill calling once again to reform the Tax Code, I read where two Senate lawmakers introduced a bill
that would give taxpayers an itemized “receipt” on where their money is being spent and how much
the federal government borrows every year.
For me, tax season traditionally meant hands clenched in prayer that I was required to ;ll in Line 73
as opposed to Line 76 on my 1040. Where the money went did not command top-of-mind awareness.
Under the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.,
every taxpayer who ;les an income tax return would get a receipt from the IRS listing where their payroll
and income taxes are being spent. Taxpayers would also be directed to a portal that would provide more
detailed information on programs that were perhaps not included on the one-page IRS receipt.
;e bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Finance Committee, on which Nelson sits.
Even search engine favorite Google has waded into the “where does my money go” arena, unveiling
its “Data Viz Challenge” showing taxpayers how their money is spent. ;e Google challenge is based
on a Web site called What WePayFor.com that utilizes public data to estimate how tax money is spent.
For example, do you know how much is spent on Social Security? Roughly $724 billion. Medicare?
I could go on, but would undoubtedly need the aid of an antacid.
Now, on the surface, a program such as this would seem to have few drawbacks.
Well, yes and no.
On the plus side, taxpayers as a whole (and I count myself in this group) are under-educated about
the costs of various programs and something like this would certainly raise much-needed awareness.
Conversely, establishing said program would not be free, and with a decidedly anti-spending climate
in Washington, there would be an emphasis on cutting costs, as opposed to spending money for yet
another government program.
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I performed my annual civic duty by ;ling, and there was a modest
;gure posted on Line 73 this year.
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