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Taxes: Follow the money

| April 15, 2010 9:00 PM

If you haven't yet filed your taxes, you'd better move fast. It needs to be postmarked for today's mail, or if it's filed electronically, by midnight. Income tax revenue plunged by $138 billion in 2009 and it isn't expected to pick up again until 2011. Still, the federal government did rake in over $1.3 trillion from income taxes. The highest percentage went to war budgets, although in 2009 defense spending was down compared to 2008.

If you haven't yet filed your taxes, you'd better move fast. It needs to be postmarked for today's mail, or if it's filed electronically, by midnight.

Income tax revenue plunged by $138 billion in 2009 and it isn't expected to pick up again until 2011. Still, the federal government did rake in over $1.3 trillion from income taxes. The highest percentage went to war budgets, although in 2009 defense spending was down compared to 2008.

Of every dollar of tax revenue paid last year, spending was on:

• Current and past war: 33 percent (veterans - 3 percent; Pentagon debt interest - 6 percent; Pentagon/related spending - 24 percent)

• Economy support: 27 percent (recovery and bailouts - 26 percent; other jobs and social programs - 1 percent)

• Health care: 17 percent (Medicaid and health-related agencies)

• Poverty response programs: 11 percent (food, housing, energy assistance)

• General government: 9 percent (interest on public debt - 7 percent; government ops - 2 percent)

• Energy, science, and environmental agencies: 2 percent

• Diplomacy, development, and war prevention: 1 percent (State Department and non-military aid to other countries)

According to the Congressional Budget Office, close to half of federal revenue comes from individual income taxes, around 12 percent from corporate income tax, and 36 percent from payroll taxes. The rest comes from excise taxes, such as on gas or cigarettes, and other sources.

Some tax trends over the decades have varied widely. Excise tax brought in nearly 20 percent of federal revenue in 1950, but is down to around 3 percent in recent years. This isn't true of income tax; since 1950 it has steadily brought in nearly half of total revenue.

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"Did you notice that when you put the words 'the' and 'IRS' together, it spells 'theirs?'" - Unknown

Sholeh Patrick, J.D., is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Sholehjo@hotmail.com

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