Taxes. It ought to be a four-letter word. Yes, taxes are a necessary part of our government, funding everything from education systems to roadways. But while taxes are an inherent part of being an American, taxes create personal stress – and often personal debt. Keeping up with your tax obligations can also cause you to fall behind on other bills and loans.

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Filing Taxes

No one enjoys filing their taxes, yet it’s something everyone must do. It can be especially confusing when you start your first job or have a life change like marriage. That’s why many people have their taxes filed professionally. Or you can brave the paperwork on your own.

Understanding Taxes

Federal income tax may be the largest, but it’s far from the only tax you pay. You may have paycheck deductions for state income taxes. If you own real estate, you pay property taxes. And every time you buy an item, sales tax is tacked on. Learn the taxes you’re required to pay.

Tax Debt

Owing the IRS is more common than you might think: 17 percent of federal taxes go unpaid each year. If you owe taxes but can’t afford to pay them in time, you may be able to set up a payment plan or receive a temporary deadline extension. Learn how to deal with your taxes.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

The average income in 2011 was $41,560. With this salary and a single filing status, you could expect to pay around $5,153 (12.4 percent of your earnings) in federal taxes, in addition to $2,577 (6.2 percent) toward Social Security and $603 (1.5 percent) toward Medicare. Where do your taxes go? The largest portion goes toward national defense, which eats up 17 percent of the federal budget. Medicare, income security and Social Security are close behind, each taking up 16 percent. Another 10 percent pays for the interest on the country’s debts. Other costs that take up less than 10 percent of taxes include health costs, veteran benefits, education and transportation.

Taxes Through History

President Abraham Lincoln enacted the first income tax in the United States, and the 1862 law helped pay for Civil War expenses. Individuals with annual incomes of $600 to $10,000 paid 3 percent, while individuals with higher incomes paid 5 percent. The tax was repealed just 10 years later and was not reinstated until 1894. In the 120 years since then, income tax has undergone numerous changes to keep up with the changing financial needs of the country. Today, the average American pays close to 12 percent of his or her income in federal income tax.

About The Author

Bill Fay

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].


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