Data from the U.S. Treasury Department shows Americans have little interest in voluntarily handing over their money to help pay for programs, services, and bureaucracies administered by the federal government. Contributions to the federal account titled “Gifts to the United States” totaled just $1,124,936.80 in fiscal year 2011, according to Tom Longnecker of the Treasury Department, which administers the gift account.
The $1.1 million gift tally represents an increase from the $698,708.40 donated to the federal bank account in FY 2010, but is down significantly from FY 2008’s total of nearly $3.8 million in contributions.
The federal government has accepted gifts since 1843 to allow “individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States,” according to the department’s website. Checks, money orders, and bequests are accepted. From fiscal year 2006 through fiscal year 2011, the gift account took in just over $10 million.
In a TIME cover story published last week, billionaire Warren Buffett doubled down on his view that the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes. His comments are the latest installment in an ongoing public squabble between Buffett and Republicans who oppose tax hikes on the wealthy. Buffett told TIME he will match donations made to federal coffers by Republican members of Congress to pay down the federal debt, which stands at more than $15 trillion.
In North Carolina, a House bill filed last May with four Republican primary sponsors on board allows for gifts to the state treasury. House Bill 877, “Check Off Donation: Government Funding,” would allow citizens to donate all or part of their state tax refunds to specific state agencies. Options would include Cultural Resources, Health and Human Services, Public Instruction, Public Safety, the General Fund, and The University of North Carolina.
Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, one of H.B. 877’s primary sponsors, said the bill was filed during last year’s budget debate in response to calls from progressives who did not want legislators to allow a temporary penny sales tax hike to sunset.
The goal of the bill was clear, he said. “If you like big government and you’re comfortable giving the government your money to spend it the way they want instead of you spending it, we have an avenue here for you to do it,” Cleveland said.
H.B. 877 was referred to the House Rules Committee last June and didn’t meet the technical requirement to be heard in 2012. Cleveland believes the bill would pass on a party-line vote if it came to the floor.
At least half a dozen states have so-called “Tax Me More” funds, according to Americans for Tax Reform.
Donna Martinez is a contributor to Carolina Journal.