Voluntary Tax Rates and Personalized Earmarks: How to Solve the Debate over Taxes
Submitted for your approval: The perfect solution to America's national debate over taxes.
This proposal is completely serious. Below you will find my suggestion for an amended IRS 1040 form. As you will see, it contains two new sections: "Voluntary Tax Rate," in which each American can individually determine his or her own rate of income taxation; and "Allocation," in which taxpayers can apply their personal tax payments to specific federal expenses.
It's simple, it's completely non-partisan and even-handed, and it allows for total individual autonomy and personal freedom.
Will it lead to a complete restructuring of the United States government? Possibly. And if it does, will that be a good thing? Most definitely.
Read on to see how this new idea came about.
• Problem #1: "Raise my taxes!" vs. "Don't raise my taxes!"
Recently, billionaire investor Warren Buffett publicly announced that he wants the government to raise his taxes, because, he feels, he just isn't paying enough. Soon after, fellow billionaire Donald Trump joined Buffett in announcing the he too would at least be willing to pay more taxes if necessary. Then millionaire TV host Jerry Springer joined the chorus of wealthy Americans demanding that their own tax rates be raised.
These high-profile champions of increased self-taxation are simply the most visible members of an entire sector of the American public who demand that we as a nation raise our own taxes to pay for our ever-increasing expenses. (Many of these high-tax-advocates of course pay few or no taxes of their own; what they really want is other people to pay more in taxes. That's why actual taxpayers like Buffett and Springer make headlines when they join the call for higher rates.)
On the other side of the coin, groups like the Tea Party have quickly ascended into political prominence by charting the exact opposite course, insisting that the economy can only be rescued by an across-the-board lowering of taxes nationwide. Critics portray the Tea Party lower-tax platform as nothing more than "greed" -- the selfishness of people who want to keep their own money, and not share it with the rest of us. Defenders of the low-tax-advocates point out that it's not greed but a desire to kickstart a stalled economy: lower tax rates generally lead to increased economic growth.
Until recently, the argument was limited to two sides, each seeking to dictate terms to everyone else: liberals said, "We want all of you to pay more taxes!", while conservatives said, "We want all of you to pay less taxes!" But Buffett and Trump and Springer changed the parameters of the debate; instead of demanding that everyone else pay more taxes, these wealthy high-tax-advocates' new twist is to announce, "I personally want to pay more taxes!"
» Solution #1: Voluntary Tax Rates
This seemingly intractable debate gave me an idea. Both the liberal and the conservative positions are ethically untenable: No one should have the right to force anyone else to pay more or less taxes than they prefer. These billionaires have hit upon a brilliant concept: Instead of everyone trying to force everyone else to conform to this or that view of tax rates, let each person voluntarily set his or her own tax rate!
Thus if Warren Buffett wants to pay more in taxes -- he can do so! And if a Tea Partier want to pay less in taxes, she can do so as well. And if liberals think the tax rate is too low -- well, under this new system they are free to pay at whatever higher rate they can afford.
It's as simple and streamlined as can be, and everybody gets what they want. (See the amended 1040 form below for how it would work.)
• Problem #2: "I'd willingly pay taxes for those government programs I like, but can't tolerate paying for programs I hate."
Both liberals and conservatives have this exact same problem: They're more than happy to pay for their favorite government departments and expenses, but it drives them crazy when they're forced to subsidize stuff they hate.
Liberals and anti-war activists, for example, have long insisted that their taxes not be used for war; so (especially when a Republican president is in office and/or during wartime), you will frequently hear them demanding that their taxes not be used for "the war machine," or for certain weapons systems (like nuclear missiles) or for any number of things they deem distasteful (e.g. drone attacks, harsh interrogations, foreign combatants in military prisons, etc.). Conversely, conservatives frequently complain that their taxes are used to support "freeloaders" who spend their entire lives as recipients of the welfare system, and who as a result never contribute to society. So conservatives bristle at the thought of paying for overly lax welfare programs, not only because they see themselves as shouldering most of the burden, but also because they think the welfare system fosters a culture of depedency, leading to a downward cycle of fewer and fewer people paying more and more of the taxes.
And what drives both liberals and conservatives to distraction is when they discover that their tax dollars are being used for programs or procedures which they deem morally wrong; liberals, for example, don't want their taxes to pay for the federal government to break up immigrant families by deporting the illegal parents while allowing the natural-born-citizen legal children to stay; while many conservatives find it intolerable that their tax dollars are used to pay for abortions in federally subsidized clinics -- a procedure which they feel is tantamount to murder.
Yet the problem is, we're all paying into the same big pie, and we don't get to determine what our personal tax contributions are used for. Thus liberals end up paying for war crimes, and conservatives end up paying to murder babies, and everybody's unhappy.
» Solution #2: Personalized Earmarks
Why are we still using this outdated system that leads to universal dissatisfaction? If each person was able to "earmark" the specific aspects of government which he or she deems acceptable, then no one would feel that their taxes were used for programs which are either unhealthy for the soul or for the national economy.
The solution to this problem is obvious: Simply amend the tax code to allow each taxpayer to individually allocate which governmental expenses receive funding from that person's tax payments. Presto! Everybody's happy, because nobody is being forced to pay for things they don't like anymore.
But would this create a lot more paperwork for the IRS? Somewhat. As for re-designing the 1040 form, I've already done that part, so nothing to worry about there. As for totaling up the calculations of how much each government department gets from each taxpayer -- well, sure, that would require more bean-counters, but the overall amount of extra IRS employees needed for the task would be tiny compared to the number of bureaucrats in most other areas of government, and this minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for fundamentally reorganizing the tax code in such a way that is pleasing to everyone.
Below you will find my proposed amended IRA 1040 form; the top image shows the full front page of the 1040 form with the two new sections in situ, as they will appear to taxpayers; and the bottom image shows just the newly added sections, for extra clarity. (In each case, simply click on the image to see a much larger and clearer version of the amended form.)
Don't like my proposal? Feel free to add your own revisions, critiques or alternate suggestions in the comments section below. Let the debate begin!
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...and, for the record, here's the same new revision, all by itself (click to enlarge):
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