2100_biz_taxforms_0713When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he left out a third inevitability: fierce disagreements over tax rates and spending.

As long as our government spends a lot more than it takes in, taxation will continue to be a cause of strife between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes and smaller government; the latter for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased revenue for public services. It’s like a boring version of the NeverEnding Story (without cool flying animals). So why should you care? This is your hard-earned cash. The federal budget is primarily made up of revenue from your income and payroll taxes. But it’s hard to figure out how that cash is divvied up. Along those lines, Google and Eyebeam in 2012 put out a call to graphic designers and developers to help visualize how our federal income tax dollars are spent. The Data Viz Challenge, as it was called, drew some cool entries, including these two visualizations (click on each to view interactively):


Every Day Is Tax Day

Designed by Fred Chasen, this project took second place in the contest. It allows you to explore how many hours you actually spend working directly for the government — based on your salary — over the course of a year, and the federal departments that your dollars fund.


tax_receiptCan I Get A Receipt With That?

Created by Adam Albrecht, Kevin Mack, this straightforward visualization spits out a simple itemized tax receipt based on your income. It also puts it in perspective, showing how many Chipotle burritos or cups of Starbucks or cans of Red Bull your taxes would buy.


Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.

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