A recent court decision gave the District of Columbia control over its local budget for the first time since home rule in 1972. At a time when support for D.C. statehood is at an all-time high (67 percent of residents are in favor ), the court’s decision has brought a renewed optimism to the District’s 51st state movement. The Mayor and Council are taking advantage of the momentum generated by the court decision to propose a new ballot initiative and legislation to further the statehood agenda.
We all know the District’s statehood battle cry – Taxation Without Representation – but how much do we actually pay to the federal government each year? In order to answer this question, we dug into the federal tax collections data. What we found is that District residents and businesses paid a whopping $256 billion in federal taxes since the IRS began to track the District’s tax collections separately from Maryland in 2002. In 2014 the District paid the federal government $26.4 billion which is likely the largest contribution in the city’s history. The District only received $3.5 billion in federal grants, payments, and court contributions in fiscal year 2014 – a difference of roughly $22.9 billion (this excludes matching federal funds such as those we receive for Medicare, but all states receive these). Since 2002, the annual tax paid to the federal government grew by $11.7 billion (an increase of 80%).
In 2014 the District paid more federal taxes than 22 states and paid nearly the same amount as South Dakota, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and Vermont combined. Those states have 15 seats in Congress while the District has only one non-voting delegate.
Although some states pay more federal taxes than others, it does not necessarily translate into more congressional representation. In 2014, New Jersey paid $9.63 billion of federal taxes for each of its 14 congressional seats – the highest in the country. West Virginia on the other hand only paid $1.38 billion for each of its five congressional seats – the lowest in the country. If the District became the 51st state in 2014 and had three seats in congress, it would have paid the fourth highest amount of federal taxes per congressional seat.
What exactly is this data?
The IRS Data Book is published annually by the IRS and contains statistical tables and organizational information on a fiscal year basis. The data used in this analysis is published by the IRS annually and is available here. We used data from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2014 to obtain total revenue and federal government contributions to the District. In order to calculate federal spending on the District’s judicial system, we collected information from the District of Columbia Budget Request Act and the Budget of the United States Government for 2014.