Life of Tax: What Americans Will Pay in Taxes Over a Lifetime

The US government collects over $5.3 trillion in taxes each year, but how much will the average American pay in taxes throughout their lifetime?

We used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ expenditure numbers to see what we as Americans were spending each day to work out what taxes we would be paying until we’re no longer able to contribute financially. It’s a lot.

We’ve analyzed this data specific to each state so you can see what you may be giving to your local government in taxes across your entire life.

Key statistics

  • The average American will pay $525,037 in taxes throughout their lifetime
  • That’s an average of 34.3% of all lifetime earnings spent on taxes
  • Residents of New Jersey will pay the most in lifetime taxes ($931,000) and people in West Virginia will pay the least ($321,000)
  • Tax on earnings is where most tax will come from, with the average American paying $339,173 in a lifetime
  • Owning a car will cost an additional $29,521 in tax payments alone
  • Tax on property will set you back an additional $128,581 above the property price and maintenance
  • Tax payers in California will pay the most on everyday expenses ($40,084), followed by New Yorkers ($39,745)

Which states will pay the most in taxes over their lifetime?

Close

Which states will pay the most in taxes over their lifetime?

Lifetime tax spend per state

How much tax will the average American pay in their lifetime?

Using our state averages, we can see that the average American will pay $525,037 over their lifetime, almost 65% of this will purely be tax on earnings. This amount varies drastically by state but uses averages for earnings, expenditures, property and auto taxes. You can see the average American’s lifetime tax breakdown in the following chart:

Lifetime tax average american spend

Methodology

We used the Consumer Expenditure Report (2019) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to understand the main average household spending habits. We took this data and divided it by 2 to create a personal spending report for one American. We then took this spending data and applied state-specific taxes on each expenditure. Car property tax and sales tax data was also analyzed at a state level based on the average number of vehicles the average American will own over 60 years and a purchase cost of $25,000. The tax paid on earnings was based on state level tax and federal income taxes when applied to the average salaries in each state. While Alaska does not implement a state-wide sales tax it does allow localities to charge local sales taxes which we have gathered as an average to analyze via the Tax Foundation.

A worklife of 36 years was used to analyze income taxes based on data from the study ‘Total Worklife Expectancy’ in the Journal of Forensic Economics. The average years where an individual will pay taxes on expenditures was derived from the age of 18 and the average life expectancy (79) as dictated by the World Bank.

Inheritance tax was excluded from this study as it was deemed the average American would not have to pay this due to inheritance thresholds not being exceeded. Marriage and its effect on taxes was also not applied to this study as it did not impact taxes in the vast majority of cases representing the average American taxpayer.

Data Sources

You are leaving Self Close
Self Financial, Inc. and the issuer(s) of the Credit Builder Account and Secured Credit Card make no representation concerning and is not responsible for the quality, content, nature, or reliability of any hyperlinked site and is providing this hyperlink to you only as a convenience. The inclusion of any hyperlink does not imply any endorsement, investigation, verification or monitoring by Self Financial, Inc and the issuer(s) of the Credit Builder Account and Secured Credit Card of any information in any hyperlinked site. In no event shall Self Financial, Inc. or the issuer(s) of the Credit Builder Account and Secured Credit Card be responsible for your use of a hyperlinked site.