Tax Freedom Day

WHAT IS Tax Freedom Day

Tax Freedom Day refers to the day an average American has theoretically earned enough money to pay off his or her total tax obligations for the year. The calculation used to determine this date assumes that everyone in the nation works for eight hours a day beginning January 1, and that every dollar earned is not spent.


Tax Freedom Day is calculated by the Tax Foundation. Tax Freedom Day represents the length of time Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s taxes. In 2019, Tax Freedom Day fell on April 19, 105 days into the year and five days earlier than it was in 2017. The Tax Foundation calculates Tax Freedom Day by adding together all federal, state, and local taxes, and then dividing them by the nation’s income. 

Americans in 2019 paid a total bill of $5.3 trillion, breaking down into $3.4 trillion in federal taxes and $1.9 trillion in state and local taxes.  Though Tax Freedom Day fell earlier in 2019 than it did in 2017, if the Tax Foundation had included annual federal borrowing in the calculation, Tax Freedom Day would have occurred on May 8 instead, 22 days later than it did in 2018.

What Tax Freedom Day Means to You

Tax Freedom Day is a useful indicator for gauging the impact of taxes each year because the calculation includes all taxes incurred, including income tax, federal tax, state tax, Medicare and excise taxes. Because Tax Freedom Day takes the national average, it does not always accurately represent the tax burdens borne by residents of different states. For example, if you are a resident of New York, your Tax Freedom Day is May 3, but if you are a resident of Louisiana or Alaska your Tax Freedom Day is much earlier. Along with New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have later Tax Freedom dates. Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Alabama have a still earlier date.

Who decides what day is Tax Freedom Day?

The Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy nonprofit, calculates Tax Freedom Day. Founded in 1937, the nonprofit funds research and analysis to improve tax policy at state, local and federal tax levels. The Tax Foundation also produces a variety of indices and other data, including the State Business Tax Climate Index, Taxes and Growth Models, and the Options for Reforming America’s Tax Code. The Tax Foundation is also connected with influential people working closely with governors, key policymakers, and presidential candidates.

Article Sources
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  1. Tax Foundation. "Tax Freedom Day 2019 is April 16th." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  2. Congressional Budget Office. "Monthly Budget Review: Summary for Fiscal Year 2019," Pages 1, 3. Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  3. Tax Foundation. "Who We Are." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  4. Tax Foundation. "Ranking Sales Taxes on the 2020 State Business Tax Climate Index." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  5. Tax Foundation. "The Tax Foundation’s Taxes and Growth Model." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  6. The Tax Foundation. "Options for Reforming America’s Tax Code." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

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