Federal Tax Collections Were Up in March—Despite COVID-19 Shutdown; Total Taxes Set Record in First Half of FY2020

By Terence P. Jeffrey | April 10, 2020 | 7:23pm EDT
President Trump shakes hands with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (Getty Images/Shawn Thew-pool)
President Trump shakes hands with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (Getty Images/Shawn Thew-pool)

(CNSNews.com) - The federal government collected more money in taxes in the 31 days of this March—even when adjusted for inflation—than it did in any of the previous three Marches, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released on Friday afternoon.

On March 16, as the second half of the month began, the White House advised Americans to avoid discretionary travel, eating out and gathering in groups of more than ten. Three days later, as reported by CNN, California’s governor ordered residents to stay at home.

Even so, the federal government collected the highest amount of taxes in March since 2016--and an all-time record amount in total taxes through the first six months of fiscal 2020 (October through March).

Federal spending, meanwhile, was the second highest in U.S. history for the first six months of the fiscal year, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

In the month of March alone, the Treasury collected $236,766,000,000 in total taxes.

When prior March tax collections are adjusted into constant March 2020 dollars (using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator), the $236,766,000,000 in taxes collected this March is the third highest in U.S. history.

The total federal tax collections from this March were exceeded only by those from 2016 ($246,968,010,000 in constant March 2020 dollars) and 2015 ($256,003,020,000 in constant March 2020 dollars).

The $236,766,000,000 in taxes the federal government collected this March included $98,316,000,000 in individual income taxes; $107,866,000,000 in payroll taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, and other retirement taxes; $6,415,000,000 in excise taxes; $1,217,000,000 in estate and gift taxes; $4,815,000,000 in customs duties; and $7,749,000,000 in “miscellaneous receipts.”

During the October through March period (the first six months of fiscal 2020), the U.S. Treasury collected a record total of $1,603,516,000,000 in taxes, according to the Treasury statement.

Prior to this fiscal year, the most tax dollars the Treasury ever collected in the first six months of the fiscal year was in fiscal 2016. That year, the Treasury brought in $1,600,095,780,000 in total tax revenues (in constant March 2020 dollars) in October-through-March period.

While collecting a record $1,603,516,000,000 in taxes, the federal government was spending $2,347,107,000,000 in October through March.

Thus, the federal government ran a deficit of $743,590,000,000 in the first half of the fiscal year.

The only time that the federal government has spent more in the October-through-March period was in fiscal 2009, when it spent $2,362,170,470,000 (in constant March 2020 dollars). On the first day of that fiscal year, President George W. Bush signed the Troubled Asset Relief Program legislation to bail out insolvent financial institutions. Then, after President Barack Obama took office, he signed his stimulus law—the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act—in February 2009.

In addition to collecting record total taxes in the October-through-March period, the Treasury also collected record individual income taxes of $769,460,000,000.

Prior to this year, the most the federal government had ever collected in individual income taxes in the October-through-March period was in fiscal 2018. That year the Treasir collected $761,532,000,000 in individual income taxes in constant March 2020 dollars.

The most expensive item in the federal budget in the first half of this fiscal year was the Department of Health and Human Services, which spent $619,263,000,000 in the October-through-March period.

The second-most expensive was the Social Security Administration, which spent $568,127,000,000.

The third-most expensive was the Department of Defense, which spent $348,178,000,000.

The fourth-most expensive was interest on Treasury securities, which cost $269,452,000,000.

(Numbers in this story were converted into constant March 2020 dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.)

[This story was updated on April 11, 2020 to report that total federal tax collections in the month of March 2020 were the highest for the month of March since 2016.]

The business and economic reporting of CNSNews.com is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.

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