One More Reason Americans May Want Tax Cuts

One More Reason Americans May Want Tax Cuts


Some new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights one big reason why tax reform might resonate with Americans. As first pointed out, and a number of mostly conservative news outlets have repeated, U.S. households last year paid more in personal taxes than they spent on food and clothing combined.

The average “consumer unit” tracked by the BLS — families, single people living alone or living with others but still financially independent, or two or more people living together and sharing expenses — paid $10,489 in personal taxes, including $8,367 to the federal government and $2,046 in state and local income taxes. The average food bill for 2016 was $7,203, while the average spent on clothing was $1,803. Combined, the average for food and clothing totaled $9,006, or about $1,500 less than the average taxes paid. (Some of the other spending averages worth pointing out: $18,886 on housing, $9,049 on transportation, $4,612 on health care and $2,913 on entertainment.)

There’s good news buried in that comparison: Tax bills went up 40 percent from 2013 to 2016 in part because incomes rose by 17 percent over that period, and after-tax income climbed about 14 percent. But the pinch from paying taxes has gone up too, even if taxes as a share of income remains low overall: 14 percent in 2016 compared with 11.7 percent in 2013.

Average Annual Spending by US "Consumer Unit"
  2013 2014 2015 2016
Food $6,602 $6,759 $7,023 $7,203
Apparel $1,604 $1,786 $1,846 $1,803
Taxes $7,432 $8,513 $9,178 $10,489

 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey