The percentage of Americans who understand government spending is smaller than the percentage of tax money spent on national defense.

Come April a lot of people ask themselves what taxes pay for. If you’re expecting a tax refund, you know exactly what those taxes pay for. But if you owe taxes, you probably have no clue what Uncle Sam plans for your hard-earned cash.

Those are the funny findings of two new surveys from GoBankingRates and Carmax. Carmax looked at what people plan to do with their refunds; hoping it would involve buying a car. The results…


Here’s a sampling of what else Carmax found by surveying 1,010 adults…

  • Parents, Southerners, and people under 35 are more likely than average to shop for a car with their refund.
  • 7 percent sometimes spend their expected refund before receiving it.
  • 45 percent file taxes in February, and 40 percent file in March.

Meanwhile, GoBankingRates surveyed 1,500 people about federal spending, and only 20 percent even pretended to know where their tax money went…

Most people don't know what taxes pay for.

Adults under 25 were most likely (at 13.2 percent) to say they knew what taxes pay for. Even respondents making more than $150,000 — who have between 28 and 40 percent of their income sucked out of paychecks and funneled to the federal government — were evenly split between those who claimed to know and those who didn’t.

It is a little weird that we only know the destination of the tiny sliver of money most of us get back as a tax refund. After all, the federal budget isn’t written by the NSA.

In fact, the White House publishes a tool that shows exactly how much of your money goes to expenses like national disaster response, interest payments on government debt, veterans benefits, and the space program…

Meet the Author

Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger


Ballenger is a writer for and its first political columnist.

Budgeting & Saving

Congress, tax debt, tax returns

Related Posts

Article last modified on July 12, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Most Americans have no idea what taxes pay for - AMP.