As we all know, today marks one of the clearest-cut deadlines of the year: Our Federal income taxes are due. (And, if you didn’t know, you’ve got until midnight.) Yes, the IRS does grant extensions, making it more generous than many teachers I know. But, for most of us, today is it.
According to Virginia Senator Mark Warner, “Our taxpayers deserve to know how their federal funds are spent–dollar for dollar–and it is the government’s obligation to share that information in a clear, accessible way.” Acting on this conviction, Senator Warner has sponsored the Senate’s Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act along with Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman. According to the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, this bi-partisan bill “[allows] taxpayers to trace every dollar spent by federal agencies and help lawmakers more easily identify fraud, waste and abuse to create a more efficient government.”
A previous version of this bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support in November, and an amended version was unanimously passed by the Senate on April 10. It is projected that this updated bill will soon pass through the House, and come to the president later this spring for his approval or veto.
Under the DATA Act, taxpayers will be able to access checkbook-level data on Federal payments. Big Data–a phrase likely to conjure concerns over privacy, and often misunderstood–can help as we attempt to hold our government to higher standards of accountability.
On a day like Tax Day, though, there are plenty of other fun ways to use data, and data visualizations, to understand more about one of the two certainties in life. Here are some online resources on taxes in the US:
- The 2013 “Here’s what you have to pay” table from the IRS
- A table from the Tax Policy Center showing simulated tax liability and income distribution and redistribution for calendar year 2013
- A broad description about where Federal tax dollars go
- Some information on the Federal estate tax, a topic that incites considerable political disagreement
- With an eye toward the other end of the income spectrum, some great maps and charts giving information about the Earned Income Tax Credit
So, happy Tax Day. And, whether you’re rueful or refunded, perhaps the fact that the IRS even maintains this page will help get you through it with your sense of humor intact.