by Kail Padgitt –Tax Foundation
Tax Foundation Special Report No. 190
Tax Freedom Day® will arrive on April 12 this year, the 102nd day of 2011. That means Americans will work well over three months of the year, from January 1 to April 12, before they have earned enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels.
Tax Freedom Day arrives three day later in 2011 than it did in 2010, but nearly two weeks earlier than in 2007. This shift toward a lower tax burden since 2007 has been driven by three factors:
• The Great Recession has reduced tax collec tions even faster than it has reduced income.
• President Obama and the Congress, after a long debate, extended the Bush-era tax cuts for two additional years.
• As part of the extension agreement, the Making Work Pay tax credit was replaced with the 2 percent reduction in the payroll tax.
Despite these tax reductions, Americans will pay more in taxes in 2011 than they will spend on groceries, clothing and shelter combined.
Tax Freedom Day 2011 is later than last year largely because of income changes rather than statutory tax law changes. As the economic recovery continues, individuals’ rising income pushes them into higher tax brackets. Corporate tax revenue has also seen a resurgence.
Although these income increases are the main reason for the later Tax Freedom Day, several tax law changes are also partly to blame: The federal estate tax has returned after a one-year repeal, this time at a rate of 35 percent and with an exemption of $5 million. In addition, taxes associated with the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act con tinue to be phased in.
Tax Freedom Day, like almost all tax burden measures, does not take into account the current year’s federal budget deficit. Only taxes that will actually be collected dur ing 2011 count in the tally. In many years the deficit is fairly small as a percentage of total government spending, so Tax Freedom Day alone is a good guide to the size of government.
Since 2008, however, deficits have increased dramatically. As a result, Tax Freedom Day may give the impression that the burden of government is smaller than it is. If the federal government were planning to col lect enough in taxes during 2011 to finance all of its spending, it would have to collect about $1.48 trillion more, and Tax Freedom Day would arrive on May 23 instead of April 12—adding an additional 41 days to the nation’s work for government. This date for a deficit-inclusive measure is the latest since World War II.