Apr 4 2011

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