April 15th, 2011
04:59 PM ET
By CNNMoney's Jennifer Liberto
However, the online calculator obscures how much of an individual's tax dollars goes to a controversial expense that Republicans have been railing about - bailing out government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - by lumping it with other expense such as commerce, transportation and government administration.
President Obama said in his State of the Union address that he wanted to give taxpayers an itemized receipt for how tax dollars are spent.
And the unveiling of the new online calculator couldn't be timelier, coming on the weekend when many are crunching their own tax bills.
But outside observers said the White House could have been even more transparent with its online receipt.
For example, the online tax receipt blunts the tens of billions pumped into Fannie and Freddie by offsetting it with dollars coming in from banks returning their share of the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout. The bank portion of TARP is turning a profit for the federal government, but there's still a net deficit of $19 billion due to losses on bailouts to the auto industry, insurer American International Group and Treasury's mortgage assistance program.
Third Way health and fiscal policy analyst David Kendall called the White House calculator a "tremendous effort."
But his own online taxpayer receipt crafted for Third Way, a center-left think tank, offered a lot more details on how tax dollars are spent, breaking out such things as Amtrak, foster care and adoption assistance, and ocean oil drilling regulation and natural resource leases.
He also noted that the White House lumped a lot of categories together and didn't account for Social Security and transportation highway trust fund spending.
"The question is, if you take all that stuff out, are you really giving an accurate picture?" Kendall said. "It's a great idea but the execution is a little challenging."