386 Arizona Residents Were Willing to Pay a Little Extra

May 26, 2011

A few hundred Arizona residents have opted to pay more than required on their state income tax returns this year. Policymakers had recently created an “I Didn’t Pay Enough” fund for those who wished to pay more for the government to spend more on state services.

And, much to the surprise of some lawmakers, 386 taxpayers thought the new program was such a good idea, they willingly kicked in an extra $13,204 to the state’s general fund, according to the Department of Revenue.

The amount was beyond the expectations of Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, one of many sponsors of the legislation, which passed with heavy bipartisan support last year.

“I’m a little surprised it raised $13,000,” she said. “I thought people would laugh at it, say, ‘Ha ha,’ and move on.”

The creation of such a fund was obviously a cynical stunt and was not expected to raise revenue. Still, 386 people gave an average of $34.21. If each of the roughly 6.4 million Arizonans volunteered this much the state would have an extra $219 million to play with. On the surface the low participation doesn’t seem to provide a great deal of popular support for a tax increase. However, one could argue that there are more people who would be willing to pay more, if only everyone else would pay more as well. This is one reason why taxes are generally not optional. Too many people (maybe everyone) would become “free riders” consuming public goods but paying nothing for them. But you could also argue that the vast majority of Arizonans simply don’t think the state should have more of their money.

Actually, the federal government also has a debt reduction fund to which taxpayers can voluntarily contribute. It has already brought in $1.7 million in fiscal year 2011, and brought in $2.8 million last year. If you would like to contribute to reducing the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt, you can do so here. Or, as TreasuryDirect.gov instructs:

You can write a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and in the memo section, notate that it’s a Gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. Mail your check to:

Attn Dept G
Bureau of the Public Debt
P. O. Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

The following are acceptable gifts to the fund:

  • Money, made only on the condition that it be used to reduce debt held by the public.
  • An outstanding government obligation, made only on the condition that the obligation be retired and the redemption proceeds used to reduce debt held by the public.
  • Other intangible personal property made only on the condition that the property is sold and the proceeds from the sale used to reduce the public debt.

Gifts to reduce debt held by the public may be inter vivos gifts or testamentary bequests.

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