# Visualizing State Taxes in Number of Days Worked

For the past month or so, I’ve been looking for data sets to play with. As a journalist, I really enjoy finding interesting ways to visualize data, and I needed some to play with.

I came across Visualize This: Days Spent Working to Pay Taxes, a challenge posted to Flowing Data:

About 28.2% of the average American’s income goes towards taxes, which means the first 103 days of the year is to pay for government. At the end of these 103 days – April 13 – is Tax Freedom Day. However, because of varying state-by-state tax burdens and average incomes, Tax Freedom Day varies by state. Alaska, for example, has the earliest Tax Freedom Day (March 23) because it has low state and local taxes while Connecticut is last on April 30, because of “extraordinarily high federal income taxes.” For this Visualize This we’re looking at the number of days each state spends paying taxes this year (2009).

FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better – mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all.

So, I didn’t get mine done in time for the contest, and the results were posted today.

Edit: These two are my favorites:

Here is my belated attempt (click for larger view):

I wanted to do something with the state median incomes as well, but I’m having trouble getting the numbers to make sense.

1. I presume the 28.2% in taxes is actually income taxes. When we add in sales taxes, property taxes, licensing taxes, utility taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, unemployment taxes, capital gains taxes, auto taxes, and hundreds of other taxes I imagine the percentage of our incomes is considerably higher. I’m curious what percentage of the average American’s income goes to *all* taxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if crosses the 40% threshold.

2. I presume the 28.2% in taxes is actually income taxes. When we add in sales taxes, property taxes, licensing taxes, utility taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, unemployment taxes, capital gains taxes, auto taxes, and hundreds of other taxes I imagine the percentage of our incomes is considerably higher. I’m curious what percentage of the average American’s income goes to *all* taxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if crosses the 40% threshold.

3. Good point, but if I graphed that, I might get depressed.

4. Good point, but if I graphed that, I might get depressed.

5. ‘Tax Freedom Day’ is a marketing ploy, not reflective of anything real.

If you absolutely must run the ‘Tax Freedom Day’ story, usually in May or June, then you should feel obliged to run the equivalent ‘Corporate Tax Freedom Day’, usually in January or February, or the ‘billionaire tax freedom day’, sometime on January 1st.

6. ‘Tax Freedom Day’ is a marketing ploy, not reflective of anything real.

If you absolutely must run the ‘Tax Freedom Day’ story, usually in May or June, then you should feel obliged to run the equivalent ‘Corporate Tax Freedom Day’, usually in January or February, or the ‘billionaire tax freedom day’, sometime on January 1st.

7. Marketing ploy or not, the numbers are still fun to run.

8. Marketing ploy or not, the numbers are still fun to run.

9. @Stephen Downes: I’d love to see the sources for your statistics. Feel free to post them.

10. @Stephen Downes: I’d love to see the sources for your statistics. Feel free to post them.

11. Yes, it would be very interesting to ID Tax Freedom Day for the top 2% (or the millionaires, or the billionaires, or however you chose ID the wealthy, but including the corporations as a subset) both as the tax laws are today and as they would be if Obama’s proposals are implemented.

12. Yes, it would be very interesting to ID Tax Freedom Day for the top 2% (or the millionaires, or the billionaires, or however you chose ID the wealthy, but including the corporations as a subset) both as the tax laws are today and as they would be if Obama’s proposals are implemented.

13. Lee, great idea. Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend to carry out my original idea; I’ll see if I can find the data for what you’re talking about (although the changes in tax law might be a little ambitious for a weekend’s work).

14. Lee, great idea. Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend to carry out my original idea; I’ll see if I can find the data for what you’re talking about (although the changes in tax law might be a little ambitious for a weekend’s work).

15. The problem with looking at corporations is that these organizations are often distorted in the media. People who want to shift taxes from one group to another often shake their fists and pitchforks at corporations as evil monstrosities that get all the breaks and eat small children.

The vast majority of corporations in America are small businesses. Does anyone honestly think these businesses are greedy monsters that lying, cheating, and stealing?

Anyone who owns even a single share of stock in a corporation is a partial owner of that corporation. If corporations are evil, then so is everyone with a 401(k) or an investment. After all, corporations exist to bring profit to their stockholders. To attack corporations is to attack every individual invested in or employed by a corporation. Actually, anyone who purchases a product from a corporation is also guilty of enabling them.

Corporations employ people who in turn pay income taxes. Gutting corporations means cutting jobs which drops income taxes and puts more people on the unemployment line. I’m not sure how that helps the economy at all.

Yes, corporations get tax breaks. And guess what? Anyone who wants to start a corporation can file the necessary paperwork and start reaping the benefits. It’s called entrepreneurship and these breaks are rewards for chasing the American dream of being self-employed, employing others, and producing a good or service that adds to the economy.

That’s not to say that corporations should be allowed to cheat tax laws, but it is to say that we need to stop looking at corporations as the source of evil in the world and start asking why a government that already collects trillions of dollars in taxes from already over-taxed citizens still cannot pay its bills or act responsibly. Blaming corporations is just shifting the focus from incompetent and greedy government to a scapegoat.

16. The problem with looking at corporations is that these organizations are often distorted in the media. People who want to shift taxes from one group to another often shake their fists and pitchforks at corporations as evil monstrosities that get all the breaks and eat small children.

The vast majority of corporations in America are small businesses. Does anyone honestly think these businesses are greedy monsters that lying, cheating, and stealing?

Anyone who owns even a single share of stock in a corporation is a partial owner of that corporation. If corporations are evil, then so is everyone with a 401(k) or an investment. After all, corporations exist to bring profit to their stockholders. To attack corporations is to attack every individual invested in or employed by a corporation. Actually, anyone who purchases a product from a corporation is also guilty of enabling them.

Corporations employ people who in turn pay income taxes. Gutting corporations means cutting jobs which drops income taxes and puts more people on the unemployment line. I’m not sure how that helps the economy at all.

Yes, corporations get tax breaks. And guess what? Anyone who wants to start a corporation can file the necessary paperwork and start reaping the benefits. It’s called entrepreneurship and these breaks are rewards for chasing the American dream of being self-employed, employing others, and producing a good or service that adds to the economy.

That’s not to say that corporations should be allowed to cheat tax laws, but it is to say that we need to stop looking at corporations as the source of evil in the world and start asking why a government that already collects trillions of dollars in taxes from already over-taxed citizens still cannot pay its bills or act responsibly. Blaming corporations is just shifting the focus from incompetent and greedy government to a scapegoat.

17. Jamie, that’s one of the great things about data: numbers don’t lie. Of course, they can be made to lie, but I’m not good enough at math to pull that off. So as long as I have an honest data set, (how to verify that, hmm?) I can put together charts and visualizations, not to cast an evil mask on anyone, but to show interesting comparisons and correlations.

18. Jamie, that’s one of the great things about data: numbers don’t lie. Of course, they can be made to lie, but I’m not good enough at math to pull that off. So as long as I have an honest data set, (how to verify that, hmm?) I can put together charts and visualizations, not to cast an evil mask on anyone, but to show interesting comparisons and correlations.

19. @Megan: Sorry, that wasn’t really directed at you. Just a little frustration at how politicians have been distorting the issues to shift the focus from bad government management and high taxation to an easy scapegoat found in corporations. It’s unfortunate that a lot of the media industry has helped feed that distortion. It’s not that I’m pro-corporation (though I am pro-entrepreneur) but that I am irked by distorted views of reality.

What you are doing is great. You’re giving perspective to real issues and that makes people do something a lot fail to do: think about real issues. Keep up the good work!

20. @Megan: Sorry, that wasn’t really directed at you. Just a little frustration at how politicians have been distorting the issues to shift the focus from bad government management and high taxation to an easy scapegoat found in corporations. It’s unfortunate that a lot of the media industry has helped feed that distortion. It’s not that I’m pro-corporation (though I am pro-entrepreneur) but that I am irked by distorted views of reality.

What you are doing is great. You’re giving perspective to real issues and that makes people do something a lot fail to do: think about real issues. Keep up the good work!

21. Jamie, feel free to rant!

22. Jamie, feel free to rant!

23. Jamie: The recent past has given us plenty of reasons to question corporations, their top management, and even their diets (some of their skeletons are about the size of children). And you only have to spend a little time overseas to see what a bargain our taxes are: our police, firemen, first responders, medical providers are top notch.
Your generalizations are puerile: I would bet that the percentage of scoundrels in government is about equal to those in the private sector. And high taxes? Explain to me how a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk are both priced at \$4.00. God bless the entrepreneurs. But how many will practice ethical behavior unless the consumer demands it.
Aren’t you part of the media that is so unfair?
We’re off point: Megan is trying to demonstrate that numbers can be dramatically presented. The topographical map is wonderful.

24. Jamie: The recent past has given us plenty of reasons to question corporations, their top management, and even their diets (some of their skeletons are about the size of children). And you only have to spend a little time overseas to see what a bargain our taxes are: our police, firemen, first responders, medical providers are top notch.
Your generalizations are puerile: I would bet that the percentage of scoundrels in government is about equal to those in the private sector. And high taxes? Explain to me how a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk are both priced at \$4.00. God bless the entrepreneurs. But how many will practice ethical behavior unless the consumer demands it.
Aren’t you part of the media that is so unfair?
We’re off point: Megan is trying to demonstrate that numbers can be dramatically presented. The topographical map is wonderful.

25. Lee:

I think we’re on the same page for the most part (and yes, we’re definitely off-topic). I absolutely believe that corruption in any form needs to investigated and publicized and I’m frustrated that the media is largely failing in this area because the companies that own the news organizations don’t see enough profit in funding investigations.

Regarding corporations, I think it’s a bad move for blame to constantly and blindly be assigned to them (or any entity) for society’s ills. This has the effect of diverting attention from the real issues but it also has the effect of numbing people to the point that when real corruption is exposed it barely makes a ripple in people’s minds.

And yes, I am part of the media and that’s why I am so frustrated by what I perceive to be major shortcomings of this industry. The media has a responsibility to the public to be honest and truthful, to ask the tough questions and not be content with canned responses, and to be wise enough to be fulled by illogical arguments and straw men.

26. Lee:

I think we’re on the same page for the most part (and yes, we’re definitely off-topic). I absolutely believe that corruption in any form needs to investigated and publicized and I’m frustrated that the media is largely failing in this area because the companies that own the news organizations don’t see enough profit in funding investigations.

Regarding corporations, I think it’s a bad move for blame to constantly and blindly be assigned to them (or any entity) for society’s ills. This has the effect of diverting attention from the real issues but it also has the effect of numbing people to the point that when real corruption is exposed it barely makes a ripple in people’s minds.

And yes, I am part of the media and that’s why I am so frustrated by what I perceive to be major shortcomings of this industry. The media has a responsibility to the public to be honest and truthful, to ask the tough questions and not be content with canned responses, and to be wise enough to be fulled by illogical arguments and straw men.

27. (and please forgive my accidental “fulled” instead of “not be fooled…”)

28. (and please forgive my accidental “fulled” instead of “not be fooled…”)

29. Jamie:

I’m in your corner. While the press has to bring home the bacon, it is nevertheless a higher calling, akin to a religious calling. We need more skepticism and more passion (the fire in the belly). And even then those of us who are not in the media have to take responsibility for choosing among the cacophony of competing journalistic voices and, if necessary, launch our own investigations. Thank God for the internet–yes, no, maybe?

30. Jamie:

I’m in your corner. While the press has to bring home the bacon, it is nevertheless a higher calling, akin to a religious calling. We need more skepticism and more passion (the fire in the belly). And even then those of us who are not in the media have to take responsibility for choosing among the cacophony of competing journalistic voices and, if necessary, launch our own investigations. Thank God for the internet–yes, no, maybe?