Your 1040 Tax Form Lies to You


If you pick up a copy of a 1040EZ U.S. income tax form with all the instructions, particularly pages 36-37 (click on the graphic to the right for a high resolution version of the IRS chart), you’ll discover that the U.S. government only spends 22 percent of its money on “National defense, veterans, and foreign affairs.” The form admits that you could leave out the “foreign affairs” part and still be at 21 percent.

 

However, if you take a look at the pie chart created by the War Resisters League (click here for a two-page PDF of the alternate analysis), you’ll see 54 percent of the budget going to the military. What gives?

 

Well, the income tax form plays a number of dirty tricks on you. The first is that it lumps Social Security and Medicare into the budget, even though they are not funded with income taxes. Take that out and the 1040EZ now tells us that the military makes up 32 percent of national public spending. But that’s still a long way from 54 percent.

 

However, the tax form lumps all interest payments on debt together without explaining that much of that debt is for past military expenses. The tax form also appears to categorize at least some of the military spending that goes through departments other than “Defense” as something else. And in all likelihood the tax form is based on a budget established early in the year and does not include any estimate of the additional funding that will be appropriated outside the budget in “war supplemental” bills. The 1040EZ is also misleading in claiming to fund defense and veterans, with no mention of the military and with only the fine print to explain that only 3 percent is actually spent on veterans.

 

Both the 1040EZ and the War Resisters League use numbers for FY2009. One of them uses those numbers in a way that better explains where the government is choosing to spend our money.

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David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie (warisalie.org).