How much of your salary goes on tax?

This handy website breaks down how the government spends your hard-earned pounds. But be warned, says Merryn Somerset Webb - it's not for the faint-hearted.

If your tax is deducted from your salary at source via PAYE, do you really know how much of it you pay? Most people (57% according to HMRC) don't. So I'm pleased to see that in advance of the government's plan to send out individual tax statements to us all from 2013, HMRC has introduced a new online calculator to help us all see where our money goes.

All you have to do is visit and pop your annual salary let's say it is £60,000 into the right box and next thing you know you'll be hyperventilating. In this case you will find that you pay a total in income tax (including national insurance, or NI) of £353.87 a week, or £18,401.24 a year. You can then check the detailed breakdown to find out "how the government spends your taxes".

Someone on a £60,000 income pays £6,127 towards the nation's welfare bill, £3,201.82 towards health, £2,392 towards education, and £368 towards housing and local services (even before council tax!). He then adds in another £920 towards recreation, culture and religion, £400 for government administration and £1,060 on defence.

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If that isn't bad enough, he pays £1,177 in interest on our national debt. You'll be upset by now. But if you stop to visit the website and run your eye to the bottom of the page, you'll see that your £18,401 is just the beginning. Income tax in the form of what we think of as income tax and NI makes up a mere 43% of government revenues. The rest comes from VAT (17%), council tax (4.5%), business rates (4.5%), corporation tax (8%), excise duties (8%) and a mysterious sounding "other" (14%).

What does this all add up to? It's a tricky calculation and I can't find a definitive number for the total percentage of income the average top-rate taxpayer hands over every year (if you do please tweet me at @merrynsw). But for a hint you might download a copy of the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) free Taxbuster App (

This looks at the item you're buying and all the taxes you pay on it that's VAT as well as duties you pay on alcohol, tobacco, fuel and flights. It also looks at your income and how much you have to earn before tax in order to pay for the item in question.

So, let's say our £60,000 earner buys himself a new pair of shoes costing £40. Add in income tax, VAT, employer's NI, etc, and on TPA numbers he would have had to earn £81.93 to buy the shoes, 59.32% of which would have gone on one tax or another. Something to remember next time you think more government spending might be the obvious answer to our current economic problems.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.