Taxes are a common theme on news shows in the U.S.; you may have even seen the Tax Foundation’s very own Kyle Pomerleau speaking about the presidential candidates’ tax plans. However, Americans rarely see a sitcom or...
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- Treasury Donations Make Up Less Than One Forty-Thousandth...
Treasury Donations Make Up Less Than One Forty-Thousandth of Voluntary Giving
Did you know that you can donate to the treasury voluntarily? The website pay.gov takes checking accounts, credit cards, and debit cards. You can also donate on your tax forms, which are due today.
Obviously, not many people choose to do this. It’s not reasonable to expect people to voluntarily part with money, even if they would prefer higher tax levels all around. The highest level of voluntary donations ever recorded was $7.75 million, in 2012. It’s perfectly fair to think of government as solving collective action problems, allowing us to do good things with diffuse benefits that otherwise wouldn’t be done without compulsory payment. For example, Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic argues today that taxes are a good cause.
But it is worth mentioning that there are a lot of good causes, and a lot of things that solve collective action problems, and they do great things that otherwise wouldn’t be done - and they receive many voluntary donations. Americans donated over $316 billion to charities in 2012 – over forty thousand times what they donated voluntarily to the government.
When Americans are willing to donate a little extra in order to help solve problems, some of them choose to donate to our own government. But for every dollar that goes to Uncle Sam, forty thousand dollars go elsewhere. Our government is empowered with all sorts of legal abilities that the United Way and the Salvation Army don’t have, and it should be able to accomplish many things that the private charities cannot. However, when Americans are given a choice, they send their money to the United Way.
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About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.