The 1040’s Little White Lie

March 10, 2013

Every year when I do our income taxes, I shake my head at the very first box I’m asked to check. How, I ask myself, can the government get away with such nonsense?   The box is for funding presidential elections, $3 from you or your spouse goes to the fund when you check the box.

Here is the part that knots my knickers: “Checking a box below will not change your tax or refund.” Really? Wow! A chance to reduce the influence of special interest money in our presidential campaigns, and for free!

Not quite. While technically true, your tax return won’t be effected this year, every box checked creates a $3 liability out of thin air for the federal government next year. Who do you think pays for it, the Tooth Fairy? Taxes and/or borrowing will go up next year to pay for that $3 liability you create.

As my favorite economist would say, there is no such thing as a free lunch, even if politicians would like us to think otherwise.

Essentially, this is a dishonest request by the government.  The honest and transparent thing to do would be to put the box at the very end of the return with the caption, “If you check a box below, add $3 to your taxes owed or reduce your refund by $3.”

While we’re at it, why stop at $3, why not $2,600, the current legal limit for a contribution to a single candidate?  I would also like to see some other government programs put at the end of the 1040 for an up-or-down, tax-dollar vote.

For example, two programs that subsidize the best educated, wealthiest citizens in our country are The National Endowment For the Arts and The Public Broadcasting Corporation. I don’t care what the arguments for these programs are, the Federal Government has no business taking my money to support these unessential and elitist programs. Another controversial program partially funded by the Federal Government is Planned Parenthood.

I’m sure readers can come up with other programs to add to those three, which combined, cost federal taxpayers only about $1 billion in 2012.  Not a lot of money, but very symbolic.

Here’s how it might look at the end of the 1040: “The National Endowment For The Arts (NEA) requests $XX.XX from each taxpayer for its 2014 budget.  Check the box and add that amount to your taxes owed or reduce that amount from your refund. OR check the box “other amount” and fill in the amount you would like to add to your taxes or reduce your refund.  Check the Zero box for no contribution.”

Do the same for the Public Broadcasting Corporation, Planned Parenthood, etc. The programs would have to spend only the amount of tax revenue granted by the people who “checked the box.”

The beauty of this is that it would end what I consider taxation without representation. My taxes pay for the NEA, but they don’t ask me how the money should be spent.  If it isn’t my money, I don’t give a damn. As it is, I give a big damn when they fund a work of “art” called “piss Christ”, a photo of a glass of urine with a crucifix in it.

I’m sure people who object to Planned Parenthood give a big damn about what their money is used for, too.

One other thing:  This would turn the funding of these programs into a public referendum.  We’d find out how much support the public REALLY has for these programs, so popular with special interests.  Which is why it will never happen.

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