The Corner

Re: Can I Have a Receipt with That?

Lots of e-mail came in overnight about my tax-receipt post. Apparently, there are many, many problems with the math in the sample tax receipt. For starters, it only lists “selected items.” I hope the idea isn’t to mislead taxpayers while pretending to be informing them.

Just read the comments over at Megan’s place and you can get a sense of the problems. I still like the idea, though. I’d just like the government to do it honestly.

Update: Here’s an e-mail explaining some of the problems:

Hi Jonah,

The receipt in your Oct 3 article, Can I have a receipt with that? has lots of errors and omissions. First of all FICA and Medicare taxes take 7.65% off the top, so 7.65% of 34140 would be $2611, not the $ 2053 for SSA, Medicare, and Medicaid shown on the receipt.

The Federal tax for someone earning $34140 would be $3301 (assuming the standard deduction and single filing status), so the total tax would be $5912, not $5400.

The biggest problem with the receipt, however, is that it simply doesn’t show all the expenses. After rounding up each item to the next higher full dollar, the total only adds up to $3369, not $5400. That means that either $2031 of expense ( 37% !) is not shown, or this typical person is one of the 40% of taxpayers who pays more in taxes than he receives in services. With 34K in income I find that difficult to believe. After looking over the list of items, I think it’s more like that the list author intentionally left off things that the taxpayer would find more offensive.

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