In a classic episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden suddenly finds himself an unfortunate casualty of a widespread layoff at the bus company. He conducts an impromptu financial "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 finances and lobs a charge that she squandered it.
I can sympathize with Ralph, as I often find myself asking, "Where did it all go?" after reviewing my quarterly checking and bank statements.
But while millions of households differ on their financial acumen and organization with regard to their personal finances, I wonder how many actually know where their tax monies go post-filing.
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 fill 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 files 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.
The 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. The Google challenge is based on a Web site called WhatWePayFor.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? $461 billion.
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 filing, and there was a modest figure posted on Line 73 this year.
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