Who Pays Taxes and Who Receives Government Spending? An Analysis of Federal, State and Local Tax and Spending Distributions, 1991-2004

Tax Foundation Working Paper No. 1

123 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2007

See all articles by Andrew Chamberlain

Andrew Chamberlain

Glassdoor, Inc.

Gerald T. Prante

Lynchburg College, School of Business and Economics

Date Written: March 2007

Abstract

While the U.S. tax system is progressive, the distribution of government spending makes the overall fiscal system more progressive than is apparent from tax distributions alone. Using a microdata model we estimate the distribution of federal, state and local taxes and spending between 1991 and 2004. We find households in the lowest quintile of income received roughly $8.21 in federal, state and local government spending for every dollar of taxes paid in 2004, while households in the middle quintile received $1.30, and households in the top quintile received $0.41. Overall, tax payments exceeded government spending received for the top two quintiles of income, resulting in a net fiscal transfer of between $1.031 trillion and $1.527 trillion between quintiles. Both taxes and spending appear to have large distributional effects on households, and these effects have grown since 1991. The results suggest tax distributions alone are an inadequate measure of progressivity, and policymakers should examine both tax and spending distributions when judging the overall fairness of policy toward income groups.

Keywords: fiscal incidence, public finance, distributional analysis, tax policy, tax incidence, government expenditure incidence

JEL Classification: E62, H20, H22, H41, H50, H60, H23

Suggested Citation

Chamberlain, Andrew and Prante, Gerald T., Who Pays Taxes and Who Receives Government Spending? An Analysis of Federal, State and Local Tax and Spending Distributions, 1991-2004 (March 2007). Tax Foundation Working Paper No. 1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=976507 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.976507

Andrew Chamberlain (Contact Author)

Glassdoor, Inc. ( email )

100 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.glassdoor.com/research/

Gerald T. Prante

Lynchburg College, School of Business and Economics ( email )

Lynchburg, VA 24501
United States

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