Tax Receipts Available on NYC Web Site

For citizens still miffed at having to file taxes this week, New York City's Independent Budget Office (IBO) is offering an itemized look -- based on dollars paid to the Internal Revenue Service -- at how federal income tax dollars are spent on government services.

By entering their total amount of income taxes paid from 1998 federal tax returns, taxpayers from any state can get an itemized printout of how much of their taxes went for specific services, such as national defense, Medicaid, Social Security, education and disaster relief. New York state and New York City taxpayers can use the site (www.ibo.nyc.ny.us) to figure out how state and local income tax dollars were spent.

IBO director Doug Criscitello said the itemized receipt could promote goodwill among taxpayers. "If taxpayers understand where their funds are going, they will be more willing to pay," he said. "With credit card and most other bills, you receive a detailed explanation of the charges. But when it comes to income taxes, taxpayers get no documentation in return." This is the IBO's third year of providing the tax receipt service.

Criscitello said he got the idea from a study conducted by the Kaiser Foundation and The Washington Post a few years ago that showed a significant knowledge gap among Americans on how the federal government spends money. "I wanted to help people have a more thorough understanding of where their tax dollars are going. [This service] allows taxpayers to more effectively interact with their elected officials and effect change in a more positive way," he said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the Taxpayer Right To Know Act, which would require the IRS to establish a similar program on its Web site. Last month, another bill (HR 1153) was introduced by Rep. Merrill Cook (R-Utah) that would require the IRS to mail a tax receipt to anyone who requested it.

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