Choose your own tax adventure

Wouldn’t it be great if the process of filling out your taxes felt more like a game, and less like a reason to bang your head against your desk?

While some people do play the “Choose your own tax adventure” game by picking out which deductibles they can embellish upon without getting noticed by the abominable snowman (I’ll give you one guess as to who plays that part), most of us just begrudgingly slog through the exercise in frustration.

I’d like you to consider a less ethically ambiguous version of the “Choose your own tax adventure” game.  Imagine a tax return that allowed you to choose how the federal government was to use your tax money.  For example, my wife*, a teacher constantly frustrated by the amount of money that gets allocated towards education, could choose to allocate a majority of her tax money to education programs.  Another person with sick family or friends could choose to allocate more of his or her taxes to medical research, or to programs like Medicare.  In this way, each of us could articulate our vision for the government’s role in supporting its people.  And really, what better way for a government to identify the democratic sentiment of the people than by letting them speak with their money.

An additional benefit is that, unlike voting, where even the presidential elections only draw in 50% of the adult population, almost 90% of us are forced to at least file taxes each year, whether we have to pay anything or not.  Even if the government did not want to implement this plan in full for fear of important, but unsexy, programs being left unfunded, surely, having each individual household’s tax priority pie chart would serve as an amazing resource for prioritizing state and nationwide program and department funding.

Think about the implications of this, taking into consideration the current breakdown of how your tax dollars are being used by the government, and let us know: could this sort of idea work, and perhaps more importantly, what type of tax adventure would you choose?

* many thanks to her for coming up with this idea

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3 Responses to “Choose your own tax adventure”

  • AJC Says:

    This has been on my societal wish-list for years. The the mid-2000′s I did not pay my federal taxes because I knew that roughly 20% would be directed into funding military exertion over vulnerable nations. Morally, I could not justify personally funding international violence.

    I know how irresponsible/illegal this may be. So this year I paid all my back taxes to the government. It didn’t bring any sense of relief, ironically… If only I had the right to opt out of sections of the federal budget, and allow my tax dollars to be freely distributed to all other provisions.

  • alan Says:

    Thanks for the comments Alison! I wonder how many others besides you and Thoreau have been driven to that point where you feel so disconnected with your government and their priorities that they didn’t even feel clean paying their taxes. Personally, I think the goal should be that citizens are so engaged and well informed about their government’s spending priorities through this or other mechanisms that citizens would feel comfortable about the things their taxes support, or at least understand why their non-priority things might be important in the eyes of others because there had been great debates about that in which they felt that their voice was heard. What do you think about the idea of doing a referendum on federal spending priorities along with your tax bill, or did you have any other ideas? In those younger, rebellious years of the mid-naughts for you, did you come up with any other ideas at the time? Thanks again.

  • John Says:

    We are on an unsustainable path fiscally. So what is the way out? Shared sacrifice! The right is going to have to give up the strategy of endless war. The left is going to need to give up on the Nanny state (i.e. reform Medicare and Medicaid a la the Ryan plan) and the right will need to give up on “no new taxes, ever under any circumstances” rhetoric The shared sacrifice model is the only way to save the nanny state that the Left loves and the war machine that the Right loves. Everyone needs to give or else “the whole shithouse comes down” with apologies to Jim Morrison.

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