On average, Americans must work past April 24 to clear tax burden for 2015
by Ben Bullard
The Tax Foundation offers this handy conceptual statistic every year. And it seems that every year the day that working Americans finally begin to keep what they earn is pushed farther away from Jan. 1 and closer to Christmas.
This year’s “Tax Freedom Day” — the day in the calendar year when the average American earner is clear of his total tax burden — is April 24. That’s one day later than the “Tax Freedom Day” for 2014, continuing a trend of tax encumbrance that shows no sign of permanently reversing.
The Tax Foundation uses available data to pinpoint the average tax obligation for all Americans who pay federal, state and local taxes. For 2015, earners will have to advance 114 calendar days into the year — assuming they continue earning for the entire year — before their wages stop going to various governmental collectors and start going into their wallets.
Here’s how the Tax Foundation explains it:
Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year.
While the concept of projecting a “paid in full” date for government taxes might seem like a gimmick, it offers a useful way to compare the ratio, on average, of America’s total tax burden with earners’ ability to generate revenue. The farther into a calendar year the “Tax Freedom Day” falls, the greater the proportion of earnings (on average) American workers must pay to the government before (legally) holding on to what’s left.
In fewer words, the later “Tax Freedom Day” falls on the calendar, the worse the news is for those who like to keep what they earn. Who wants to work for nearly one-third of the calendar year just to reach the turning point — when everything they earn thereafter finally begins to accrue to their benefit?
The Tax Foundation retroactively applies its “Tax Freedom Day” designation to each calendar year dating all the way back to 1900. While there are some fluctuations, the general trend over the past 115 years has steadfastly progressed (regressed?) toward increasingly later dates in the calendar year before earners can, on average, begin claiming the money they earn as their own.
“The latest ever Tax Freedom Day was May 1, 2000, meaning Americans paid 33 percent of their total income in taxes that year,” the Tax Foundation observes.
But compare that with this:
A century earlier, in 1900, Americans paid only 5.9 percent of their income in taxes, meaning Tax Freedom Day came on January 22. The last time Tax Freedom Day was this late [circa 2015] in the year was 2007 (April 25).