How Federal Tax Money Is Spent

An interesting (and surprising) look at the breakdown of how federal tax dollars are spent by the government.

Paying taxes is no fun. Still, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” So, what type of civilization are you getting for your money?

Fortunately, the nonprofit National Priorities Project ( has made it easy to see where your tax money is going. It has created the terrific graphic posted below showing where every tax dollar is spent by the federal government.

As you can see, by far the biggest expenses are for the military, health care (mainly Medicare and Medicaid), and interest on the federal debt (which currently stands at about $17,544,572,145,000; for the exact amount see the U.S. National Debt Clock. Together, these three items account for 63.6% of all federal expenditures—almost two/thirds. The remaining third accounts for everything else the federal government spends money on. Foreign aid, an item many people think is a budget buster, is actually quite small, amounting to only 1% of federal expenditures.

If you’d like an even more detailed breakdown of where every dollar you pay in taxes goes, you can obtain a personal “tax receipt” from the National Priorities Project website. The Obama Administration has created a similar tax receipt.

The National Priorities Project has also created a chart showing the average federal income taxes paid by residents of each state in 2013. Connecticut residents paid the most ($18,988), while Mississippians paid the least ($7,402). The national average was $11,715. The military received $3,174 of the total, while $237 went to education programs, and $6.56 went to the National Forest System.

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