The IRS website had 21 million hits in the past week
The federal government keeps a live ticker of how many people are on government websites, and which pages are getting the most traffic. In the week before Tax Day, the IRS site had 21 million hits — way ahead of even the perennially popular Weather.gov. The most popular page on the IRS site? "Where's My Refund?"
But the peak of tax-preparation season is in February
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks employment in the "tax preparation" industry (think H&R Block). Surprisingly, it found that employment actually peaks a couple months before Tax Day — in February — and then falls in March and April. Apparently, the people who hire tax preparers are super-organized types who want to file as early as possible to get their refunds. (The worst time to go into the tax-prep industry, apparently, is July.)
America's tax collection is pretty cost-efficient compared with other countries'
This chart, made by Quartz, shows how much countries spend collecting taxes versus how much they take in. The IRS does pretty well in international comparison — the money the US spends to collect your taxes is about 62 cents on every 100 dollars if has left over afterwards. If you click on the chart to see the full version, you'll see that some countries are much less efficient — Poland and the Czech Republic, for example, spend 2 dollars collecting taxes for each 100 dollars they have
The IRS brings in almost as much revenue on payroll taxes as income taxes
Payroll taxes — taxes on wages for Social Security and Medicare — account for almost as much tax revenue as the individual income tax does. Some payroll taxes are typically paid by employers, but economists agree they end up coming out of money employees would have earned.
Why politicians should stop focusing on the income tax
As Dylan Matthews wrote for Vox, "A report from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that most Americans (65.4 percent of filers) pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. It's only once you start looking at folks making over $200,000 a year that most people are paying more in income taxes. Because so much of US social policy is structured as tax credits, a lot of people get more money back from income taxes than they put in ... but they still, on net, contribute billions to the federal government every year."
The poor really do pay taxes, in one chart
If you look at all the taxes people pay — federal, state and local income taxes, and payroll taxes — the rich don't actually pay that much more than anyone else. This chart shows that while the bottom 60 percent of earners pay a slightly smaller share of all taxes than their share of income, and the top 20 percent pay slightly a slightly bigger share of taxes, there's no tremendous discrepancy. For more on this, see Dylan Matthews's post on "Think the poor don't pay taxes? This chart proves you very, very wrong."
Americans get $1.3 trillion in tax breaks...
According to Joint Committee on Taxation data analyzed by the Pew Research Center, the government gave up an estimated $1.3 trillion this year by giving tax breaks to people and companies. (This is actually a little low, because it only counts tax breaks that account for $50 million or more.) The biggest breaks are for employers providing health insurance, and the dividends and capital gains taxes (which tax income at lower rates than if people earned it as salary), each account for more than $100 billion in waived taxes.
...but they don't think tax breaks are government programs
A lot of middle-class Americans say they don't use any "government programs." But if you ask them about specific programs — especially middle-class tax breaks, like the mortgage-interest deduction — it turns out they do. This chart goes policy by policy, and shows what percentage of people who used that policy originally said they "didn't use any government programs." The problem here is that people don't think of it as a "government program" when the government takes less from you in taxes — they think of "welfare" as the government giving people money or benefits like food stamps. But the tax code is totally an instrument of social policy — it's a way for politicians to reward behavior they want to encourage and punish behavior they want to discourage, without getting into fights over "welfare."
Americans say they're going to save their tax refunds
The National Retail Federation Foundation conducts an annual survey asking people what they plan to do with their tax refunds. Unfortunately for the retailers, in 2015 people are saying they're going to put at least some of their refund toward savings (47 percent) or use it to pay down debt (39 percent). On the other hand, 10 percent of Americans plan to use refund money to "splurge."
Getting taxes in
Don't forget about payroll taxes!
Refunds and tax breaks
CORRECTION: Chart 3 originally misstated the ratio involved in tax efficiency as cost per dollar, not cost per 100 dollars. We regret the error.
- Developer: Yuri Victor