Looking out of the Long Gallery at Worstall Towers, surveying the rolling acres, I can see that the nights have started to draw in. It is also an even numbered year, so that must mean there is an election in the offing. Time to gird the loins and hoot derision at our enemies.
Did you know that if you feel you are not paying enough tax you can simply send a check to Uncle Sam? To say thank you for all of the blessings that have been showered upon your grateful and smiling countenance? Indeed you can and the address is here:
Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37
Hyattsville, MD 20782
That might be worth printing out then clipping and keeping. And when a campaigner tells you in his stump speech that he thinks taxes should be raised, smile sweetly and ask him how much he added to his tax bill last year. After all, if he thinks you should pay more taxes shouldn't he already be doing so voluntarily himself?
You might also ask someone so keen to get their hands into your wallet whether they've ever heard of the concept of revealed preferences? That is, don't be fooled by what people say they will do, watch what they actually do. The answer to "Would you be willing to pay more taxes?" is rather different when it's a doe-eyed surf-bunny talking about saving starving children than it is when it's me asking if you'd pay more to raise Bill Clinton's Presidential pension (to which the answer is probably "Stay there Sonny while I load my gun"). So how do people really act when they have this opportunity to indeed give more money to the Federal Government?
The "Gift to the United States" account has been around since 1843 so it isn't as if people can claim it's some new innovation they didn't know about. So I thought I'd ask the US Treasury, who passed me on to the IRS who answered via email:
Last year, the U.S. Treasury received 48 contributions for $21,179.
Since 1982, the U.S. government has received 16,074 contributions for a total of $9.8 million.
That actually sounded a little low to me and so it turned out. That's the amount that was sent direct to the US Treasury, not the amount that was actually contributed to the account as a whole.
According to Vivian Cooper (Director, Financial Accounting and Services Division of the Treasury Financial Management Service) who actually runs the books for that account the full numbers are:
- 2005 (all four quarters): $2,671,628.40
- 2006 (Oct-July): $1,972,600.80.
On average some (adjusted for inflation) $300,000 to $400,000 is sent directly to the FMS (to be more precise, $357,401.26 in fiscal 2005 and $621,737.47 first three quarters 2006) at the above address each year. In May 2006 there was a bequest of a substantial sum which has boosted their collections. All other Federal departments can and do add in the donations they receive which gives us the larger total numbers for the account.
(Just as an aside, if the Government were, in bulk, as helpful and efficient as Ms. Cooper and her colleague in the Press Office, Melody Barrett, were in person I'd send a check myself and I'm not even a US citizen.)
So, according to the doctrine of revealed preferences, we now know by exactly how much taxes should rise. As all US citizens (and in fact foreigners can contribute as well) are able to make the choice about their consumption, we have hard evidence. Given the chance, do people in fact pay more in taxes from their own money? Or do they think it better to keep it and spend it upon themselves? Or, even, to allow it to fructify in the pockets of the populace? Possibly cut out the middleman and spend it directly on starving children, surf-bunnies or shotgun shells for when I come round asking questions?
Whether you want to say that this is the considered decision of all 300 million in the country, the 6 billion on the planet or just the 140 million odd who file US tax returns, the revealed truth is that taxes should have been higher by $2,671,628.40 precisely in fiscal year 2005. This year, perhaps a little more.
All the talk from the Democrats that taxes should be raised is just that: talk. They mean taxes should rise for you, not that they should rise for them. For if they really did believe that the Federal Government spends money better, more wisely, deserves it more, than they themselves do, wouldn't there be rather more flowing into that account?
Tim Worstall is a TCS Daily contributing writer living in Europe.