Tax Break Costs: 1974 – Present

April 18, 2014

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The federal tax code includes hundreds of tax breaks designed to encourage certain activities that lawmakers deem beneficial to society. Tax deductions, credits, and exclusions are all different kinds of tax breaks.

Tax breaks result in fewer collected federal revenue dollars. Since 1974, these revenue losses – called tax expenditures by the federal government – have been estimated by the Treasury department and published as part of the annual president’s budget request.

Tax Break Time Series

NPP has created the first time series tax break dataset by obtaining archived budget requests, converting them to electronic format, and standardizing the categories and names over time. We’ve also added several calculations and normalizations to make these data more useful to researchers.

What you will find in this dataset:

  • Tax break names, standardized over time
  • Tax break categories, standardized over time
  • Estimated annual tax break costs (both real dollars and adjusted for inflation)
  • Annual tax break costs as a percent change from the previous year
  • Annual tax break costs as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • Annual tax break costs as a percentage of their corresponding category

View the full notes and sources, including our methodology and a data dictionary.  The raw data and the code used to generate the final dataset are available under an ODC Open Database license.

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Numbers updated April 2014 to reflect the latest Treasury Department tax break estimates.