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April 15, 2011 at 1:45 PM

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McDermott and Obama unveil itemized taxpayer receipts

Posted by Kyung M. Song

WASHINGTON -- Americans love complaining about paying taxes. Now we can grouse about taxes with specificity -- thanks to an interactive federal taxpayer receipt rolled out by the Obama administration Friday.

The online tool delivers on Obama's pledge to show Americans just what they're buying with their tax dollars. It debuted on the same day that Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, reintroduced his bill that would codify the initiative by requiring the Internal Revenue Service to issue an annual personalized receipt to every taxpayer.

McDermott considers his legislation an antidote to widespread misunderstanding among Americans about the federal budget.

The taxpayer receipts break down spending by major federal programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the interest on the national debt. If McDermott's bill becomes law, it would entitle every taxpayer an annual paper summary of where her taxes went.

McDermott proposes listing the various federal budget outlays as a percentage of total splending. Included in the itemized expenditures would be the cost of ongoing military operations. For a hypothetical filer with $40,650 in taxable income, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan) consumed $111.76 and $97.79, respectively, of the $6,350 in total income and payroll taxes.

In the meantime, you can use the White House's online calculator to generate your own receipt. Just plug in the amounts you paid for Social Security, Medicare and income taxes in 2010. For those who likely don't have those figures handy, a drop-down menu allows you to select from five sample income levels.

Interestingly, the preselected income tops out at $80,000 for a couple with two children. That's less than a third of the household income of $250,000 a year that Obama and the members of Congress have deemed marks the line for "wealthy" Americans.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

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Emily Heffter
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Kyung Song
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