taxes

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What Do Your Taxes Actually Pay For?

Includes visualizations

2100_biz_taxforms_0713When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he left out a third inevitability: fierce disagreements over tax rates and spending.

As long as our government spends a lot more than it takes in, taxation will continue to be a cause of strife between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes and smaller government; the latter for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased revenue for public services. It’s like a boring version of the NeverEnding Story (without cool flying animals). Continue reading

How Does the Government Spend Your Tax Dollars?

Includes tax visualizations
2100_biz_taxforms_0713

Getty Images

Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Well, the deadline for the latter inevitability (and hopefully not the former) is just around the corner.

For many Americans, mid-April means last minute scrambling and groaning, a last ditch effort to get taxes filed by the April 15 deadline.

So what happens to all that hard-earned cash of yours?

The federal budget – on which the government operates – consists mainly of revenue from income taxes and payroll taxes. In an effort to demystify what the government actually does with that cash, Google and Eyebeam last year put out a call to graphic designers and developers to help visualize how our federal income tax dollars are spent. The Data Viz Challenge, as it was called, drew some very cool entries, including the following interactives (click on each to explore the multimedia versions).

 

GrandAwardScreenshot1

Where Did All My Tax Dollars Go?
Designed by Anil Kandangath, this won first place in the contest. It allows users to enter their income and view a clear breakdown of what services that money went towards.

 

 

Every Day Is Tax Dayclock
Designed by Fred Chasen, this project took second place in the contest. It allows viewers to explore how many hours they actually spend working directly for the government over the course of a year, and what programs that cash funds.

 

 

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Federal Income Tax Receipt
Although not actually an entry in the contest, this is a good straightforward visualization produced by the National Priorities Project that spits out a simple itemized receipt of your tax breakdown based on income.

What Prop. 30 Means For Your Taxes

Includes explainer video

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Wait … Californians actually voted to tax increase their own taxes?

Get outta here!

Like most Americans, California residents don’t look too kindly on the notion of raising taxes. In fact, voters have rejected statewide tax measures the last seven times they’ve been on the ballot!

So in many ways, it’s pretty miraculous that on Tuesday 54 percent of California’s electorate approved Proposition 30, which temporarily increases sales tax for everyone by a quarter cent and raises income taxes for those making over $250,000. The measure, which Governor Jerry Brown crafted and threw himself behind, is expected to raise about $6 billion a year and prevent massive cuts to the state’s already beleaguered public education system.

Here’s how it’ll affect you:

Brown staked much of his political reputation on winning what became a bitter, hard-fought, and incredibly pricey fight; both sides waged a relentless ad war, collectively spending more than $120 million.

“I know a lot of people had some doubts and some questions: Can you really go to the people and ask them to vote for a tax?” Brown told supporters at the victory party late Tuesday night. “Well here we are. We have a vote of the people – I think the only place in America where a state actually said, let’s raise our taxes for our kids, our schools, for our California dream.”

And he was right. In a state where voters haven’t approved a tax hike in almost three decades, the very real threat of huge cuts to education appears to have actually resonated with voters.

The consensus seemed to be: “Yes, taxes suck, but some things are just too important to lose.”

The temporary nature of the tax, also, likely made the measure more palatable to voters.

Interestingly, it was younger voters who turned out in force on Tuesday in support of the measure. Voters ages 18-29 – who Brown and his campaign targeted – made up almost 30 percent of the electorate and were critical in pushing the measure through.

How Does California’s Tax System Work?

Includes our first original animation on California's tax system!

Taxes. Not too many folks like paying ‘em, and even fewer understand what they’re actually paying for. In November, California voters will decide on two major competing tax measures – Proposition 30 and 38. The initiatives are both intended to shield public schools from devastating budget cuts, although they each propose to do so in pretty different ways. Deciding which path makes the most sense requires first understanding the basics of California’s tax system. Pretty enticing, huh? Well, before we lose your attention to the latest gripping cat flick on YouTube, at least take a quick look at this animation produced by freelancer Josh Kurz. It’s a surprisingly digestible primer on a topic that’s admittedly pretty freakin’ dry … but one that’s also got some pretty huge real life consequences for almost all of us.
(Scroll down to see another KQED video and detailed summaries on both propositions)

Continue reading

Who Smokes? The Stats on Lighting Up

Includes: article; infographic; map; poll

credit: lanier67/Flickr

About one in five adults in America smokes. That’s a significant drop from even a decade ago.

In California, which has one of the lowest rates in the country, it’s down to roughly one in eight.

But disparities in smoking rates across economic, racial, educational, and gender lines remain wide. The graphic below – from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - is based on 2010 U.S. smoking data among adults: Continue reading