In order for the government to run, it needs money. The government gets its money by taxing its citizens.
Why do we need Taxes?
Taxes pay for all sorts of government jobs and services. Federal taxes help pay for national things like the president, the Congress, federal judges, and the military. State taxes pay for roads and the governor. County and city taxes help pay for schools, fire trucks, and the police. Without taxes, the government couldn't run and the country would be in chaos.
Types of Taxes
There are all sorts of taxes that people and businesses have to pay. We've listed a few of them below.
Income taxes are a percentage of the money someone makes on their job. In the United States, the more you make, the higher percentage you pay. There are different types of income tax including federal, state, and local income tax. Federal rates can be anywhere from 0% to 39.6% and state rates run from 0% to 13.3%. In some states people can pay over 52% of their income in income taxes alone.
If you own property, like a house, then you probably have to pay property taxes. There is often a property tax from the county and the city. Property tax is usually a percentage of the current value of the house. If you own a $300,000 house and the tax is 3%, then each year you have to pay the government $6000 in taxes.
Sales tax is placed on all retail sales in many areas. Sometimes items like food or clothing are exempt from sales tax. Every time you buy something at a store and they add on the "tax" at the end, that's the sales tax. Sales tax varies depending on where you live from 1% to 10%.
Social Security Tax
Another tax that comes out of a person's paycheck is social security tax. This tax is meant to help people when they retire. Once you get old enough you can start collecting a social security check. The current tax rate is 6.2% paid by the employee and 6.2% paid by the employer (if you have your own business you have to pay all 12.4%).
Medicare tax comes out of your paycheck, too. It pays to help people age 65 and over who are sick and need medical care. Medicare tax rates are 1.45% for the employee or 2.35% (if you make a lot of money).
Businesses also have to pay all sorts of business taxes depending on how much profit they had.
There are lots of other taxes such as tariffs on imports, gift taxes, estate taxes, and unemployment taxes.
More or Less Taxes
There is a constant argument in politics about whether taxes should be higher or lower. However, despite what politicians say, there really isn't one right answer.
Think about it. If taxes were 0, then of course the government would get no money and that wouldn't be good. However, what would happen if taxes were raised to 100%. How much money would the government get? It would get no money, because no one would want to work if the government took all their money. Therefore, there is some answer between 0% and 100% that is the best answer.
Interesting Facts about Taxes
- The federal agency that collects taxes is the Internal Revenue Service which is usually called the IRS.
- The federal government collected around $3.25 trillion in taxes in 2016 (source Wikipedia).
- The current tax code is really long; around 4 million words long!
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History >> US Government