Giving Taxpayers a Receipt

Just in time for Tax Day on Monday, the White House website has launched a taxpayer receipt. By entering what one has paid in federal taxes, the new tool allows users to view where their tax dollars go, with results broken down by category. Not only does the receipt improve transparency regarding how taxpayer money is spent, but it is a useful educational instrument that complements interactive tools like CRFB’s “Stabilize the Debt” online budget simulator in helping Americans get a better idea of the composition of the federal budget.

A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators have also introduced legislation intended to make a taxpayer receipt mandatory. The bill requires an itemized tax receipt for each taxpayer. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill. Congressmen Jim Cooper (D-TN), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Todd Platts (R-PA), Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) introduced the legislation in the House.

The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform recommended making more information about the federal budget easily accessible to the public as a part of comprehensive reform of the budget process. The taxpayer receipt is a good step in that direction.