Infographic Of The Day: Where Did Your Tax Dollars Go?

Announcing the winner of the Data Viz Challenge, run by Eyebeam and sponsored by Google.

Infographic Of The Day: Where Did Your Tax Dollars Go?

Today’s tax day! Get excited, people! Just kidding. Everyone hates paying taxes, we know. But at least this year, tax day comes hand in hand with a superb infographic. And not just any infographic; rather, the grand-prize, $5,000 winner of the inaugural Data Viz Challenge, run by Eyebeam with sponsorship from Google (and which we helped judge).

The problem posed to each entry was to take the data from, a voluminous repository of over 25 years’ worth of tax information, and make it easier to digest, and easier to relate to. Where Did My Tax Dollars Go?, created by Anil Kandangath, does all that in spades. The interactive graphic shows, quite simply, how much of your income goes to taxes, and of those tax dollars, it tracks how every last buck was spent. So let’s say you make $50,000. On average, you pay $11,088 in taxes:


[Click graphic to visit interactive version]

You’ll notice that once you click on any piece of the pie chart in the middle, that brings up a more detailed view of that line-item’s spending.

Now, looking at this, you might be a teeny bit surprised that this entry won out over others that were far more beautiful. But the simplicity is really the key to the infographic’s success. Having seen 40 entries in all, one thing that became immediately clear is that most became bogged down by the sheer volume of data. And no matter how well you visualize that data, it’s meaning and relevance goes to zero without a firm point of view. By contrast, Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? filters the federal budget through the lens of your personal finances.

Consider this: It’s almost impossible to really understand what it means when people say over $700 billion of the federal budget goes to Social Security. I mean, that number sounds huge, but then again, it’s just 20% of the federal budget. Now consider instead the following: If you make $50,000 a year, about $11,000 goes to taxes, and you spend about $1,800 on social security. Makes it all hit home a bit more clearly, right? Click here to check it out.

Congratulations to both the runner-up, which took home $3,000, and all the winners, which you can browse here.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.