The following is a guest post by attorney and freelance writer Mark Meuser.


Today, many Americans will finalize their federal income tax returns and send their 1040 forms to the Internal Revenue Service to make tomorrow’s Tax Day deadline. Whether you are receiving a refund or will need to send a check to Uncle Sam, if you worked more than 35 hours a week and did not make at least $164,500 in 2016, you will not be paying your fair share of taxes this year. Shame on you.

Obviously, I am joking, but the per-capita burden of federal spending is no laughing matter. In 2016, the federal government spent approximately $12,387.29 per resident of the United States. Some might think that $12,387.29 in taxes sounds reasonable. Under current tax rates, it would mean each and every man, woman and child must earn at least $66,450 to pay his or her fair share.

Obviously, not everyone works or earns anywhere near that amount. Some 47 percent of all Americans are either too young or too old to be gainfully employed full-time. If 100 percent of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 65 were to pay taxes, federal spending would be equivalent to approximately $23,072.30 per working-age adult

But even among the able-bodied, we don’t see 100 percent workforce participation. Whether because of a disability or lack of necessary job skills, or because a parent chooses to stay home and raise their children, some people just don’t work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 100 million Americans over age 25 who work 35 hours a week or more. To cover total federal spending costs, each would need to pay $39,104.43 in taxes for the government to balance its budget. That would require each to have at least $164,500 in individual (not household) earnings per year.

An American’s fair share of government spending has not always been this high. When my grandfather was born 95 years ago, per-capita federal spending was just $30.14 ($437.04, when adjusted for inflation). The run-up in federal spending amounts to a 3,000 percent increase.

All of which raises the question each of us should ask as we send off our tax filings: how much government am I really willing to pay for?

Image by Steve Heap

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