Voluntary taxes.

Did you know that the state allows people to voluntarily pay more tax? It’s quite likely that you don’t — I suspect that virtually nobody knows about it. The Washington Times writes about how virtually nobody has ponied up, as evidence that nobody’s willing. I suspect that few people are willing, but without knowing that such a program exists then they’re certainly not going to give any money.

Remember when we all received those $300 tax rebate checks in 2001? I didn’t think much of those — it struck me a really poor economic policy — so I called up the IRS and asked if I could give it to them. Turns out, no. They’d just apply it to my account and end up cutting me a check, since I didn’t owe them anything. I got the same response from the Virginia Department of Taxation. Like many people I know, I ended up giving the check to a few different charities in my area. (As it turned out, they weren’t tax rebates — they were 0% interest loans from the feds, which we all had to pay for in our taxes in April 2002. D’oh.)

If the Virginia Department of Taxation doesn’t know that they have this program, how are citizens supposed to know? I’ve got a tough time seeing this program succeeding, but it’ll have a better shot if people know it exists. I’m not sure if this is the same thing as donations to the general fund, but I must note that the state lists just five donors to that program, and two of them are Republicans in the General Assembly: Sen. Nick Rerras and Del. Rob Bell.

(Via Bacon’s Rebellion)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

7 replies on “Voluntary taxes.”

  1. Heh. I made a de facto voluntary extra tax payment on my VA income tax this year.

    I’ve used tax preparation software for several years to prepare and file my state taxes. This year I switched to a different program, and during the interview stage it prompted me with a question I hadn’t gotten in the past: did I make out-of-state purchases such as mail-order or Internet orders totaling over $100 on which I had paid no sales tax? If so, I owed 5% on goods and 2.5% on food. It’s the little-known and less-often-paid Consumer Use Tax


    which I had certainly never noticed or heard about before.

    A minute or two using Quicken showed that I had spent $940 in major online purchases last year. So I declared it and added $47 to my tax bill.

    So take that, Delegate Cox! Here’s one tax-and-spend liberal who walks the walk!

  2. How convenient that you follow this posting up with an earnest discussion of BULLSHIT!

    Huckabee did a “voluntary tax” ploy and uses it a s a talking point.

    The reason for progressive taxation is that, as Abraham Lincoln said “Government should do for people what they can’t do for themselves”. I can’t build the roads, run the courts, educate all the kids, provide public transportation, feed the homeless, clean water, prosecute criminals, regulate industry, promote the general welfare, and provide for the common defense, maintain parks and all of the other things that serve the common good, and if I could, I certainly wouldn’t use some government as the intermediary.

    Charity doesn’t work because it doesn’t have the reach. Corporate power doesn’t work because it is legally required never to allow anything to come before the ultimate priority of profit maximization.

    The only entity that has the power to do all that needs to be done for the common good is government.

    The very idea of a “voluntary tax” is complete BULLSHIT, because it fosters the insane believe that irresponsibility can be excused by greed.


  3. Corporate power doesn’t work because it is legally required never to allow anything to come before the ultimate priority of profit maximization.

    While there may be reasons why corporate power “doesn’t work” (i.e. can’t meet all of the needs of society), I question your assertion that corporations are legally required never to allow anything to come before profit maximization. Many corporations make concessions to public good and employee welfare that impact their profits. Can you specifically cite the law that you refer to?

  4. Corporate bylaws generally free an organization to exercise any legal action, but the realities of modern markets, and financial reporting essentially demand profit-maximization as the primary and genearlly exclusive decision criteria.

    The only divergence from this dogma is in the case where short-term actions in the broader interest can be seen to ensure longer-term sustainability and enhanced profit maximization.

    In addition, corporate responsibility to shareholders puts additional pressure on boards and executives to show balance sheet performance. One only needs look at the rapid decline in American manufacturing jobs to see that corporate interests happily place fiduciary short term performance ahead of the interests of other stakeholders, such as employees and their families.

    Publicly traded companies, and their boards are required by their contracts, by bylaws, and by the SEC rules to secure peak financial performance. If, for example, that might include a $100 Million lobbying budget to pursue a $100 Billion subsidy, then that’s just profit maximization, and good business.

  5. Okay, so we agree that the is no legal requirement that profit maximization be legally mandated for corporations.

    While most publicly held corporations might see that as a goal, I believe that there are many more privately-held corporations than there are publicly held ones. I control a privately held corporation that provides my livelihood and, I can assure you, profit maximization is not and has never been the primary goal. While I want to derive a fair income for myself, I don’t need nor want more. I have enough. The goal of my business is to serve our customers in such a way that they will permit my employees and fellow stockholders to raise and care for their families and to make a contribution to the community that we are a part of.

    I also own stock in Whole Foods, a publicly-traded corporation, whose bottom line depends on their ability to satisfy all of their stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, communities and the environment. They’re not a charity; they’re a business and they need and expect to make a profit, but they take a broader view than short-term, quarterly profit maximization.

    Corporations, private and public, are controlled by individuals. Those individuals, both management and shareholders have an opportunity to reflect their personal and social values in the way they run their businesses. To blame social irresponsibility on the nature of corporations is to let individual decision-makers off the hook far too easily.

    To bring the discussion back to voluntary taxation, sure, it’s irresponsible for anybody to suggest that voluntary taxation is any substitute for mandatory taxation. And I see no sign that Waldo was making any such suggestion in his posting. But, surely, there’s nothing wrong with providing a mechanism to permit individuals to contribute additional funds to a government that they may see as an efficient and fair disperser of funds and services for the public good, much as they would to any charity they select. Is there?

  6. Great idea. I’ve read about some insanely wealthy people who lament that they don’t pay more taxes. This would be a real opportunity for them, were it available in their states.

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