Here’s Where the Money Goes

Where’d all the money go? If you’re spending part of the Labor Day weekend paying bills, that question may enter your mind. I may be able to help with a partial answer:

Washington. That’s where a substantial chunk of your hard-earned cash went.

Except at income tax filing time, you probably don’t think much about the bite Uncle Sam takes out of your wallet or purse. That’s by design; income tax withholding from your paycheck, a little at a time, makes the full tab less noticeable.

Let’s look at the income tax bill (yours will be different; these numbers are based on averages, use of standard deductions and calculations by a computer tax preparation program):

If you’re married with two kids and you and your spouse earn a combined income of $60,000 a year, you’ll pay about $1,940 in federal taxes and another $2,290 to the state of West Virginia.

Once the kids move out, Uncle Sam moves in: Your federal tax bill goes up to $5,110. Another $3,460 goes to Charleston.

That’s far from all of it. Regardless of whether you have dependent children, you and the spouse also will pay $870 in Medicare taxes. You won’t even see the $3,370 your employers withheld for Social Security.

And that’s just half the bill. Your employers also had to kick in $3,370. That’s money that, without Social Security payments, they could have given you directly.

Should you and the spouse get better jobs and push your income up to $80,000, it gets substantially worse. Without dependent children, you’ll pay $8,150 in federal income taxes and $3,840 to the state. Social Security will take $4,960 from your checks and Medicare will get another $1,160.

Your $80,000 has just been reduced by $18,110 – more if you count your employers’ shares of Social Security.

That’s just the obvious pain you feel from taxes.

If you own a nice home, you’ll pay $900 or more a year in property taxes.

If you buy clothing, appliances, medicine – anything but food – West Virginia’s sales tax adds 6 percent to the tab. Assuming you spend $12,000 on taxable goods, that’s $720.

We’ll be conservative and assume you only drive 12,000 miles a year in cars that average 25 mpg. State and federal fuel taxes will cost you $260.

You’ll pay another $200-$300 a year in personal property taxes on your two vehicles.

Decided not to buy government-approved health insurance? That’ll cost your family a minimum of $285 in penalties.

Depending on where you live, you may pay a few hundred dollars a year in local government fees for services such as fire protection. Look closely at your phone and cable bills. There are taxes tacked on to them. Call it $500 a year when all those miscellanous hidden taxes are added up.

If you’re in that $60,000 income category and get all the breaks such as deducations for children, figure about $8,500 a year just in the taxes and fees listed above. If you’re at $80,000, without kids, government takes nearly $21,000 a year.

That’s just what you know about.

Everyone from whom you buy goods or services pays taxes, too. They pass the cost on to you.

It’s difficult to say how much that adds to the prices of goods and services you buy. But consider this:?The United States has the highest corporate tax rate – 35 percent – of any developed country in the world. Rest assured, a large chunk of your money goes to pay companies’ tax bills.

Did I forget to mention the cost of companies complying with government regulations? When the electric company has to switch to more expensive power station fuel to meet federal requirements, you pay more. For example, if your electric bill is average, new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency probably will cost you $600-$1,200 a year.

When all is said and done, government may well be spending more of your money than you do.

Happy Labor Day.

Myer can be reached at