How Much Do Households Pay and Receive in Federal Taxes and Spending?

November 14, 2013

Interestingly, the amount of federal spending that families at various income levels receive is not all that different. What does differ considerably is the amount of federal taxes they pay.

Not surprisingly, low-income working families pay very little in federal taxes of all kinds, but they receive considerably more in federal spending benefits. Families earning under roughly $17,000 pay less than $3,000 in total federal taxes, but receive more than $24,000 in federal spending benefits of all kinds. However, it is surprising that middle-income families—those earning between roughly $37,000 and $67,500—also receive more in federal spending benefits than they pay in federal taxes of all kinds. Indeed, middle-income families receive an average of $7,376 more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes. By contrast, families in the top 20 percent of earners pay $65,573 more in taxes than they receive in all federal spending.

These findings come from our new report, The Distribution of Tax and Spending Policies in the United States. Read more here and here.

For more charts like the one above, see the second edition of our chart book, Putting a Face on America's Tax Returns.


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