Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 4, 2012

Americans Pay More in Taxes than for Food, Clothing, and Shelter Combined

Tax Foundation logoTax Foundation, Americans Paying More in Taxes than for Food, Clothing, and Shelter:

In 2012, Americans will pay approximately $4.041 trillion in taxes, which is $152 billion, or 3.9%, more than they will spend on housing, food, and clothing. ... Between 1929 and the early 1980s, aggregate tax collections were less than total expenditures on housing, food, and clothing. From 1929 to 1980, tax liabilities grew from $10 billion to $751 billion, while expenditures on housing, food, and clothing grew from $41.6 billion to $775.7 billion. In 1982, total tax collections exceeded expenditures on those items. The gap between tax collections and expenditures on essential goods reached a maximum in 2000, when Americans gave 19% more to the government than they spent on these items. The growth in tax collections has halted due to economic contractions, such as the collapse of the "dot-com bubble" in 2001 and the 2007-2009 financial crisis.


Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Americans Pay More in Taxes than for Food, Clothing, and Shelter Combined:


This data seems very suspect. First if you get into the details the 2012 amounts are estimates and the headline that gets everyone's attention is not true for 2011. This along with the double counting mentioned in the details makes this seem off. Second I think this is skewed by the people who are fortunate enough to have already paid their homes off. If you spend zero on housing and make a good living, then it stands to reason you will pay more in taxes than out food and shelter, but that doesn't mean dollar for dollar your tax burden is greater than in say 1908 (althoug its probably true).

From a personal perspective, I'm a CPA who is in the upper middle class income bracket, and I know of no one personally who pays more in taxes than food and shelter unless they hit a big one year pay day.

Posted by: Drew | May 9, 2012 6:23:25 AM

@GaryD: Funny. This country lasted for 138 years without the Sixteenth Amendment.

Posted by: Divemedic | May 7, 2012 8:03:09 AM

Out come the trolls with their wails of "what do we get from the government." You get a country, obviously. You want to pay zero taxes, go to Somalia.

Posted by: GaryD | May 5, 2012 5:08:41 AM

In our prime earning years, my middle class husband and I (DINKS) forked over more than 50 percent of our earnings to various taxing agencies. I don't care what income bracket you're in, that's obscene.

Posted by: SukieTawdry | May 4, 2012 5:06:41 PM

More to come under Obama.

Posted by: PTL | May 4, 2012 4:08:11 PM

"Yes, but how much more in taxes do we pay than savings?"

Wouldn't you expect that savings mostly add up to zero, since the point of savings is to spend them later on? Even if everyone is leaving an inheritance, they're also getting and spending inheritances as well, so that's a wash, too.

Posted by: Ben | May 4, 2012 3:28:44 PM

Work harder. Millions on welfare are depending on you.

Posted by: Go Galt | May 4, 2012 3:17:40 PM

I'd like to see this broken down per capita (and maybe adjusted for inflation). It strikes me that a great deal of our daily expenses (especially food and clothing) have become dramatically cheaper over the same time period.

Tax liabilities rising relative to basic expenditures could either be because taxes are much more expensive or basic commodities are much cheaper. (Or both, which is of course the answer... I'm just curious which is the primary factor.)

Posted by: Capital Idea | May 4, 2012 1:10:42 PM

of course, when we spend $ on food, shelter and clothing, we actually get something in return.

Posted by: Real American | May 4, 2012 12:23:54 PM

Hey, Look at those draconian tax cuts, where they tried to bring taxes back in line with historical norms. The heartless bastards!

Posted by: Mike | May 4, 2012 12:04:09 PM

Well, it's not cheap supporting "Julia" throughout her lifetime:

Posted by: Mkelley | May 4, 2012 12:01:12 PM

Now think about how much more we get for our housing, clothing, and food dollars vs. what we get from government.

Posted by: aclay1 | May 4, 2012 11:43:33 AM

Yes, but how much more in taxes do we pay than savings?

Posted by: Greg Toombs | May 4, 2012 11:28:01 AM

The real message of this graph is the inflation tax!

Posted by: bill | May 4, 2012 11:17:41 AM