0.3% of American taxes supported Ukraine last year

· 6 min read

Politics and ethics aside, the national debate over American aid to Ukraine often implies such aid is very costly to the average American taxpayer. I wanted to carefully study this premise, since I haven’t seen many others actually try to investigate this in depth.

This blog post walks through how I calculated the median US taxpayer’s contribution to Ukraine for the 2022 fiscal year.

TL;DR: Aid to Ukraine isn’t materially draining to the typical taxpayer. The median American paid about $30 last year.

Overview of US support for Ukraine🔗

As of January 2022 to May 2023, the United States has provided $76 billion in aid to Ukraine. Notably, over 60% of this is military aid predominantly from decommissioned equipment stockpiles. Since such weaponry generally1 doesn’t need to be replenished, I’ve discarded military aid from the rest of the calculation.

Remember this when you see the now-typical news headline “US approves \(X\) billion in military aid to Ukraine”

Deducting the military aid leaves us with $30 billion in financial and humanitarian aid, often dubbed as the “cash” sent to Ukraine. While some of this emanates from pre-existing federal budgets like the Economic Support Fund, let’s just assume for clarity and conservative estimation that we directed a cash equivalent of $30 billion to Ukraine.

But remember, this figure represents 492 days from January 2022 to May 2023. We’re just talking about how much the average American taxpayer hypothetically pays in a single year. So we need to annualize this amount to match which gives us an adjusted figure of just under $22.5 billion.

Government revenue and spending🔗

The median American paid $10,845 in income taxes in 2020. Since this is the latest available data from the IRS, I’m going to assume it’s consistent with the present day.

The Treasury reports that in FY 2022:

FY 2022 started October 1, 2021 and ended September 30, 2022. As the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, this doesn’t perfectly align but it’s good enough.

Putting it all together🔗

\( \text{Individual income tax} \times \frac{\text{total income tax revenue}}{\text{total revenue} - \text{total FICA}} \times \frac{\text{annualized aid to Ukraine}}{\text{total spending}} \)

\( =\text{\$10,845} \times \frac{\text{\$2.6 trillion}}{\text{\$4.9 trillion} - \text{\$1.5 trillion}} \times \frac{\text{\$22.5 billion}}{\text{\$6.3 trillion}} \)

\( =\text{\$29.90} \)

The median American taxpayer’s support for Ukraine in FY 2022 was $29.90. That’s 0.28% of the total income tax owed, hence the title of this blog post.

So for every $1 you pay in income tax, $0.0028 will head to Ukraine as financial and humanitarian support.

Here’s a table showing the differences in contribution across a variety of income levels:

Income percentileMedian income tax paidAnnual contribution to Ukraine
All taxpayers$10,845$29.90
bottom 50%$504$1.39
top 50%$21,187$58.41
top 25%$38,396$105.86
top 10%$79,897$220.27
top 5%$136,091$375.20
top 1%$458,894$1,265.16

For a deeper dive, you can check my spreadsheet to verify the calculations yourself.

My personal thoughts🔗

The real cost of supporting Ukraine surprised me—it’s significantly less than one might presume from public discourse.

Some other concluding thoughts:

  1. For the bottom 50% of Americans, aid to Ukraine is virtually negligible.
  2. For the median American taxpayer, the monthly outlay for Ukraine of $2.50 is about the same price as a bag of potato chips.
  3. For the top 10% earners, it’s akin to a yearly Netflix Premium subscription.
  4. The US is estimated to be spending 0.33% of GDP to help defend Ukraine. In comparison, spending for the Iraq War is estimated to have peaked at 1% of GDP, and needless to say far overshadows Ukraine in terms of costs and US casualties.2 3 For perspective, the US spent over 50% of GDP at the height of World War II.
  5. Even if my calculations were egregiously inaccurate by a factor of two or more, the cost would still be modest given the media sensationalism and how high-profile the war is.
  6. This exercise relates the unfamiliar concept of federal government spending with the familiar concept of household budgeting. But like any analogy, we should recognize its limitations.4 You might wonder “jeez, if supporting Ukraine is really this cheap, then why can’t we do the same for XYZ?” Well, that’s a political and ethical discussion beyond the scope of this topic. But I would argue that from a government’s perspective, funding ABC does not create the kind of opportunity cost for XYZ that you might encounter as an individual. Moreover, the government doesn’t raise income tax rates in response to higher spending.

Speaking more freely, given the stark moral and geopolitical implications of the conflict, I urge you to support Ukraine via United24.


Sure, some equipment being sent to Ukraine, such as the planned delivery of the Abrams main battle tank, isn’t coming from excess stock and likely needs to be replenished. But crucially, this invasion has prompted militaries around the globe to refocus on conventional warfare capabilities. This rearmament is occuring regardless of a nation’s stance towards Ukraine. So whether or not the US chooses to actively support Ukraine with expensive Western drones, tanks, or jets is irrelevant, since it almost certaintly would have otherwise sent such things to bolster NATO allies in Eastern Europe.


If you found this blog post interesting, I would also recommend NASA director Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger’s 1971 letter to a nun asking why explore space when there are so many starving children on Earth?

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