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Breakdown of Your 2015 Federal Income Tax

Update Jan 15, 2017: Originally forgot to include interest in “The List.”

You might think, given that this is an article about the US federal budget on some college kid’s website, that this is going to be about politics. It’s not. When thinking about federal spending, I just wanted to get a picture of what the federal budget actually looks like. I know what $9/month looks like (what I pay for this site), so this is a breakdown of the average American’s monthly income tax.

First, a disclaimer: These numbers are super-rough, and I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

With that out of the way, what actually is the average American’s monthly income tax? In 2015, the federal government collected $1.541 trillion in income taxes.1 For simplicity, let’s just average this across all Americans 15 or older, who numbered 322,267,564 \cdot (100\% - 19.4\%) \approx 260~\text{million} at the end of 2015.2

\frac{\$1.541~\text{trillion}/\text{year}}{260~\text{million people}} \cdot \frac{1~\text{year}}{12~\text{months}} \approx \$494/\text{person}/\text{month}

This is about the tax rate on a single American who makes $51,000/year and who files no deductions other than the standard deduction.3 Note that this does not include payroll taxes.

The Budget

The United States federal government spent $3.688 trillion in 2015. $2.297 trillion was mandatory spending, $1.168 trillion was discretionary spending, and $223 billion was net interest.1

Mandatory

Program Outlay (billions) Percent Funded by Payroll Taxes
Social Security $882 100%
Medicare $540 57%
Medicaid $350 0%
Other* $529 0%

*e.g. Food Stamps, Unemployment Compensation, and Supplemental Security for the Disabled, the Affordable Care Act and TARP
Source4

Discretionary

Program Outlay (billions)
Department of Defense $496.1
Health and Human Services $80.3
OCO (War in Afghanistan) $73.7
Education $66.9
Veterans Affairs $65.1
Homeland Security $39.9
Energy Department* $27.4
Housing and Urban Dev. $30.4
Justice Department $26.3
State Department $40.9
NASA $18.1
Disaster Relief, etc. $13.4
Other** $189.5

*includes $11.4 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration
**unlisted in source
Source4

Relevant Total

For these calculations, I’ll ignore things funded by payroll taxes. After all, you know how much of your income goes to Social Security: it’s probably on your paycheck. I’ll also assume that for our purposes, income, corporate, and other taxes are lumped together and then distributed to pay for everything not funded by payroll taxes.

Relevant Total: \$3.688~\text{trillion} - \$822~\text{billion} - 57\%\cdot\$540~\text{billion} = \$2.50~\text{trillion}

Breakdown of that $494

The formula for percentages:

\text{Percent of Income Tax} = 100\% \cdot \frac{\text{Program Outlay}}{\$2.50~\text{trillion}}

The List

Program Percent Amount
Department of Defense 19.9% $98.10
Medicaid 14.0% $69.21
Medicare 9.29% $45.92
Net Interest 8.92% $44.06
Health and Human Services 3.21% $15.88
OCO (War in Afghanistan) 2.95% $14.57
Education 2.68% $13.23
Veterans Affairs 2.61% $12.87
State Department 1.64% $8.09
Homeland Security 1.60% $7.89
Housing and Urban Dev. 1.22% $6.01
Energy Department 1.10% $5.42
Justice Department 1.05% $5.20
NASA 0.72% $3.58
Disaster Relief, etc. 0.54% $2.65
Other Mandatory 21.2% $104.61
Other Discretionary 7.59% $37.47

This is essentially what the average American pays per month for each of these programs.


  1. Congressional Budget Office, “Updated Budget Projections: 2016 to 2026” 

  2. Wikipedia, “Demography of the United States,” Dec 30 2015, 21:55 revision 

  3. The Tax Calculator, “US Income Tax Calculator” 

  4. Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, “FY 2015 U.S. Federal Budget and Spending”