You and Your Taxes

There's usually a pretty big difference between what you get paid and what you get to keep. Where does all that money go?

You work hard on the job and the primary reward for that work is a regular paycheck. But, there’s usually a pretty big difference between what you get paid and what you actually get to keep. So where does all that money go?

Some of the things that get taken out of your paycheck can be things that you pay for through your employer, like a health insurance premium or maybe money you’re saving for retirement through a 401K or contributions to a flexible spending account to pay for child care or other health expenses.

The advantage of paying for these things through your employer is that those fees come out of your paycheck before government taxes are applied and taken out. Most other deductions from your paycheck are considered taxes.

Now some say taxes are too high. Others say people should pay more taxes. Those taxes include federal income taxes which is money that goes to the federal government to pay for things like defense, education, welfare, and thousands of other programs.

While many projects are worthwhile, some people criticize the federal government for spending money on things they don’t really need. Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere”? The U.S. government has used taxpayer money to teach IRS agents to line-dance and pay farmers not to farm.

The U.S. government has been spending far more money than it collects in taxes. Like a family that spends too much on a credit card, Uncle Sam has racked up more than $17 trillion in debt and is now paying a lot in finance charges.

Income taxes come directly out of your paycheck. Other taxes like sales taxes are hidden but they get added on to what we buy with money left in our check after it has already been taxed once before.

In addition to income taxes, there are also deductions on your paycheck called “FICA” taxes or payroll taxes that go to fund Social Security and Medicare. Together, these payroll taxes take another 8% of your paycheck.

Social Security is not a bad system if there are enough people working compared to those drawing benefits. When it started, there were 41 people working for every individual drawing benefits. In 2009, that number dropped to 3 workers for each person collecting benefits. That means your FICA taxes will soon have to go up or the benefits you were expecting will have to be reduced.

Tax bills are a lot like your cell phone bill…

You don’t know exactly what’s in them but you know they’re too expensive and they’re always higher than the cellphone salesperson said they would be. Think about that the next time you open up your paycheck.