Tax Freedom Day 1998 is May 10!
Economic Growth, Progressive Tax System Combine to Add a Day
Steady economic growth and a progressive tax system have combined to propel Tax Freedom Day to another new record this year: May 10, one day later than last year. The Tax Foundation projects that Americans on average will have to work 129 days to pay off their total tax bill this year, only earning their "tax freedom" on the 130th day.
Tax Freedom Day, announced by the Tax Foundation each year for over a quarter of a century, is used to illustrate the portion of the country's income that goes to pay for taxes. Once Tax Foundation economists project the nation's effective tax rate, 35.4 percent this year, it is applied to a calendar year to provide a graphic illustration of the average American's tax bite.
(The cost of complying with the tax system, viewed by some as a surcharge, is not included in the Tax Foundation's calculations. If these costs had been included in the 1998 Tax Freedom Day calculation they would have pushed the date forward 13 days.)
Foundation Senior Economist Patrick Fleenor and Economist Scott Moody observe in their 1998 Tax Freedom Day report that, since 1994, the tax burden borne by the average American has risen rapidly. (See Chart 1.) In 1994 the national Tax Freedom Day arrived 122 days into the year (May 2), and over the next three years the tax burden showed a marked increase. This year Americans must work a full week longer than in 1994 to pay their tax bill.
Messrs. Fleenor and Moody attribute the steady rise in Tax Freedom Day to several factors, including the 1990 and 1993 tax increases, continued economic expansion, and the progressive nature of the current tax system -- which, as national income rises, causes the tax burden to rise more than proportionally.
Tax Freedom Day by Type of Tax
When Tax Freedom Day is broken down by type of tax, income and payroll taxes claim the biggest chunk of time. (See Chart 2.) In 1998 Americans on average will have to work 45 days to pay personal income taxes (37 days of which will go to federal income taxes) and 38 to pay for payroll taxes.
In addition to these more visible levies, Americans will work 18 days to pay sales and excise taxes, which are collected primarily at the state and local levels; 12 days to pay property taxes; and an additional 13 days to pay corporate income taxes. This last category of taxes, while invisible to most Americans because it is initially paid for by businesses, must ultimately be borne by consumers, employees, and shareholders. Finally, another 3 days will be spent working to pay miscellaneous taxes.
Tax Freedom Day by State
Messrs. Fleenor and Moody observe that the tax burden borne by residents of different states varies considerably. The variance is due to different levels of affluence (which affect the amount of income taxes paid), as well as the different range of taxes levied across the country.
The residents of Connecticut will bear the nation's heaviest tax burden in 1998, working the first 145 days of the year (until May 26) to pay taxes. (See Chart 3.) At the other end of the tax burden spectrum are the residents of New Hampshire, who -- bearing the lowest average tax burden in 1998 ï¿½ will have to devote all of the income earned during the first 114 days of the year (until April 25) to paying their total tax bill.
Tax Bite in the Eight-Hour Day
The Tax Freedom Day report also reveals the Tax Bite in the Eight-Hour Day, an alternative measure of the tax burden facing Americans that the Tax Foundation has been calculating since the early 1960s. It measures the fraction of each eight-hour day that must be spent working to pay federal, state, and local taxes.
Chart 4 illustrates the fraction of each eight-hour day that Americans on average will spend working to finance the purchase of various goods and services in 1998. It shows that, on average, Americans will spend 2 hours and 50 minutes of each working day laboring to pay taxes. Most of this time, 1 hour and 55 minutes, will be spent working to pay federal taxes -- two minutes longer than in 1997. The remainder, 55 minutes, will be spent working to pay state and local taxes.
The 2 hours and 50 minutes total is greater than the time worked to pay for housing and household (1 hour and 20 minutes), food and tobacco (49 minutes), and clothing (20 minutes) combined.
(For a look at total tax burdens by state, including federal, state and local taxes, please see our 1998 Total Tax Burden by State page.)