Current U.S. Federal Government Tax Revenue

Who Really Pays Uncle Sam's Bills?

Federal government revenue
All Federal government revenue comes from you in the end. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. government's total revenue is estimated to be $3.632 trillion for Fiscal Year 2017. (Sources: "Mid-Session Review Fiscal Year 2017," Office of Management and Budget, July 15, 2016. FY 2017 Budget, Summary Tables,Table 5, OMB.)

Sources of Government Revenue:

The individual taxpayer -- you -- provides most of the income for the Federal Government’s budget. That's because income taxes contribute $1.75 trillion, nearly half of the total.

Another third ($1.16 trillion) is contributed by your payroll taxes. This includes $841 billion for Social Security, $257 billion for Medicare, and $51 billion for unemployment insurance. Corporate taxes add $410 billion. Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $148 billion.

The Federal Reserve, as the bank for federal government agencies, pays interest on the billions of dollars in operating funds deposited by various Federal agencies. It also pays interest on the $4.4 trillion it acquired through Quantitative Easing. The interest totals $88 billion. The rest ($58 billion) comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts. (Source: "Mid-Session Review Fiscal Year 2017, Table S-5," OMB, July 15, 2016, FY 2017 Budget, Table S-5, OMB.)

Why All the Tax Burden Really Falls on You

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) points out that, in effect, the entire U.S. tax burden really falls on individuals.

That's because corporations pass on their tax burden to families in the form of higher prices or lower wages. Corporations must maintain their profit margin to satisfy stockholders, so any additional corporate taxes will be passed on to consumers or workers. Bottom line -- everything the government spends ultimately comes out of your pocket, no matter what happens with the corporate tax rate.

For more, see Why Do We Have to Pay Taxes?

The Budget's Relation to Economic Growth

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates revenues at 19.1% of GDP for FY 2017. That's close to the historical 19% target. Revenues would be much higher without the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the Obama tax cuts.

Income taxes were cut to fight the 2001 and 2008 recessions. They were meant to spur the consumer spending that drives 70% of economic growth. Most people didn't even realize this happened, since the tax cut showed up as reduced withholding instead of a check. Instead of spending the cuts, people used some of it to pay off debt. The recession scared people into saving more and using credit cards less. Therefore, the budget didn't expand enough to spur economic growth.

How Does Revenue Relate to the Deficit, Debt and GDP?

The government's annual income will pay for 89% of spending, creating a $441 billion deficit. Shouldn't Congress only spend what it earns, just like you and me? It depends.

Deficit spending can boost economic growth in a recession, and it should. But when the economy recovers, the government should live within its means, and spend less. To find out why, see Types of Fiscal Policy.

The revenue collected equals 19.1% of GDP, which is the nation's measurement of economic output. That's like saying the average tax rate for the United States is 19.1%. If that much production is going to the federal government, then we want to make sure it's being reinvested into our economy to support future growth. Here's how it's being spent.

U.S. Tax Revenue by Year

If the OMB's estimate is correct, the $3.632 trillion collected in FY 2017 will be the highest ever received by the U.S. government. It's more than was collected in the first 180 years of our country's history. 

Here's a record of income for each fiscal year since 1960. There are links to more details about the revenue back to the FY 2006 budget. Tax receipts fell off during the recession, but started setting new records in FY 2013.

  • FY 2016 - $3.276 trillion.
  • FY 2015 - $3.250 trillion.
  • FY 2014 - $3.021 trillion.
  • FY 2013 - $2.775 trillion.
  • FY 2012 - $2.45 trillion.
  • FY 2011 - $2.3 trillion.
  • FY 2010 - $2.16 trillion.
  • FY 2009 - $2.1 trillion.
  • FY 2008 - $2.52 trillion.
  • FY 2007 - $2.57 trillion.
  • FY 2006 - $2.4 trillion.
  • FY 2005 - $2.15 trillion.
  • FY 2004 - $1.88 trillion.
  • FY 2003 - $1.72 trillion.
  • FY 2002 - $1.85 trillion.
  • FY 2001 - $1.99 trilion.
  • FY 2000 - $2.03 trillion.
  • FY 1999 - $1.82 trillion.
  • FY 1998 - $1.72 trillion.
  • FY 1997 - $1.58 trillion.
  • FY 1996 - $1.45 trillion.
  • FY 1995 - $1.35 trillion.
  • FY 1994 - $1.26 trillion.
  • FY 1993 - $1.15 trillion.
  • FY 1992 - $1.09 trillion.
  • FY 1991 - $1.05 trillion.
  • FY 1990 - $1.03 trillion.
  • FY 1989 - $991 billion.
  • FY 1988 - $909 billion.
  • FY 1987 - $854 billion.
  • FY 1986 - $769 billion.
  • FY 1985 - $734 billion.
  • FY 1984 - $666 billion.
  • FY 1983 - $601 billion.
  • FY 1982 - $618 billion.
  • FY 1981 - $599 billion.
  • FY 1980 - $517 billion.
  • FY 1979 - $463 billion.
  • FY 1978 - $399 billion.
  • FY 1977 - $356 billion.
  • FY 1976 - $298 billion.
  • FY 1975 - $279 billion.
  • FY 1974 - $263 billion.
  • FY 1973 - $231 billion.
  • FY 1972 - $207 billion.
  • FY 1971 - $187 billion.
  • FY 1970 - $193 billion.
  • FY 1969 - $187 billion.
  • FY 1968 - $153 billion.
  • FY 1967 - $149 billion.
  • FY 1966 - $131 billion.
  • FY 1965 - $117 billion.
  • FY 1964 - $113 billion.
  • FY 1963 - $107 billion.
  • FY 1962 - $100 billion.
  • FY 1961 - $94 billion.
  • FY 1960 - $93 billion.
  • FY 1789 - FY 1959 - $1.1 trillion. (Source: OMB, Table 1.1—Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-): 1789–2018

Understand the Current Federal Budget

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