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What Americans have paid in taxes over the past 30 years

  • What Americans have paid in taxes over the past 30 years

    It’s been said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Most people look at Tax Day the same way they look at pictures of themselves in middle school: with horror.

    Taxes can be scary, stressful, and just plain confusing. Last year, TurboTax’s slogan was “There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of," which certainly speaks to the general anxiety surrounding tax season. But overwhelming as they may be, taxes pay for our roads, schools, and major health programs. In other words, they’re important, and many people have learned the hard way that messing with the IRS is never a good idea, even for celebrities.

    In order to shed light on a somewhat intimidating subject, Stacker has combed through IRS data to provide information on what Americans have paid in taxes over the past 30 years. This list is ordered chronologically, and each year refers to the fiscal year of October 1 to September 30. The term “gross collections” refers to collections prior to the issuing of refunds, and population count is based on both resident population and armed forces overseas as of October 1st each year. Without further ado, enjoy a little tax knowledge the way it should have always been presented: in a fun, not-at-all-scary slideshow.

    RELATED: Ranking states with the highest and lowest beer taxes

  • 1988

    Gross collections: $935,106,594,000

    Population: 246,329,000

    Taxes paid per person: $3,796

    Operating costs: 5,035,543,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 54 cents

    In the immediate aftermath of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and the Revenue Act of 1987, there was some confusion about which changes would be applicable by the time returns were filed in 1988. Ironically, the entire purpose of the 1986 Tax Reform Act was “to simplify the income tax code” for the general public.


  • 1989

    Gross collections: $1,013,322,133,000

    Population: 249,412,000

    Taxes paid per person: $4,063

    Operating costs: 5,198,546,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 51 cents

    In 1988, while campaigning for the presidency, George H. W. Bush made a bold pledge: “Read my lips. No new taxes!” Once his administration began in 1989, however, President Bush changed his tune. In the face of a recession, he went back on his campaign pledge and allowed a tax increase for high-income earners.


  • 1990

    Gross collections: $1,056,365,652,000

    Population: 251,057,000

    Taxes paid per person: $4,208

    Operating costs: 5,440,418,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 52 cents

    From 1990 to 1991, the U.S. experienced a short recession that brought unemployment up to 7.8%. Taxes were rising, against the wishes and campaign pledges of President George H. W. Bush. Issues in the stock market and loan failures didn’t help, either.


  • 1991

    Gross collections: $1,086,851,401,000

    Population: 254,435,000

    Taxes paid per person: $4,272

    Operating costs: 6,097,627,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 56 cents

    By March 1991, the brief recession was coming to an end, but 1991's taxes are still having an influence. In fact, taxes from that year may be impacting more than 133,000 veterans today. Dating back to 1991, taxes were wrongfully collected on disability severance, and massive refunds are currently in the works.


  • 1992

    Gross collections: $1,120,799,558,000

    Population: 257,861,000

    Taxes paid per person: $4,347

    Operating costs: 6,536,336,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 58 cents

    In 1992, “the average increase in the average tax rate reversed the decline that began after 1988.” In other words, this was the first time in several years that the average tax rate went up. The adjusted gross income increased from $37,603 the year prior, to a total of $40,168.


  • 1993

    Gross collections: $1,176,685,625,000

    Population: 261,163,000

    Taxes paid per person: $4,506

    Operating costs: 7,077,985,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 60 cents

    Bill Clinton’s presidency, which began in January 1993, certainly had an impact on taxes in the United States. It was this year that President Clinton signed his first budget, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, into effect. This act increased taxes for those earning more than $115,000 to 36%, and to 39.6% for those earning more than $250,000. The act also removed some corporate subsidies, and taxed corporations more aggressively.


  • 1994

    Gross collections: $1,276,466,776,000

    Population: 264,301,000

    Taxes paid per person: $4,830

    Operating costs: 7,245,344,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 57 cents

    1994 was not a happy year for Democrats. In a midterm election dubbed “The Republican Revolution,” Republicans gained 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate, giving them control of both for the first time in decades. President Clinton’s tax law alterations, initiated the previous year, should have been popular for the middle class and roused Democratic support, but this was not the case.


  • 1995

    Gross collections: $1,375,731,836,000

    Population: 267,456,000

    Taxes paid per person: $5,144

    Operating costs: 7,389,692,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 54 cents

    Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. experienced a period of steady economic growth. In fact, this period marks the longest period of consistent growth the nation has ever seen: from 1994 to 1995, for example, the national deficit decreased from $203 billion to $164 billion. This growth is largely attributed to the Clinton administration’s economic policy and successful tax legislation.


  • 1996

    Gross collections: $1,486,546,674,000

    Population: 270,581,000

    Taxes paid per person: $5,494

    Operating costs: 7,240,221,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 49 cents

    This may come as a shock to many Americans, but Puerto Rico is in fact a commonwealth of the United States, making all Puerto Rican nationals U.S. citizens. There once existed a tax break on profits made by U.S. corporations in Puerto Rico, which drove many companies to manufacture there and greatly supported the Puerto Rican economy. When President Clinton signed a bill to phase out this tax break in 1996, Puerto Rico saw a major loss of jobs and industry. However, it’s also up for debate whether that tax break had more benefits for Puerto Rico or those corporations.


  • 1997

    Gross collections: $1,623,272,071,000

    Population: 273,852,000

    Taxes paid per person: $5,928

    Operating costs: 7,163,541,000

    Cost of collecting per $100: 44 cents

    The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 was enacted in August of this year. Among its impacts was the Child Tax Credit, which aimed to offer more tax relief to those with children under the age of 17. The act also offered increased exemptions to family farms and small businesses.