Fascinating Idea: A Taxpayer Receipt

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    Oct 04, 2010 10:59 PM GMT
    I came across this on a friend's Facebook page and I think it's a fascinating idea that would definitely help with transparency. In fact, I think we should receive one for state and local taxes as well. Curious what you think:


    "The goal is to keep Americans informed about where their tax money really goes and to force citizens to confront the hard choices we’ll have to make to do something about our staggering and endless budget deficits. It also offers an antidote to the budget blather on both the right (e.g. Republicans who claim they can balance the budget by snuffing out waste, fraud, and abuse without touching Social Security, Medicare, or defense) and on the left (e.g. Democrats who think that boosting taxes on a small slice of the population will do anything to raise the money needed to finance our spending.)

    Okay, somebody give me one good reason why we’re not doing this."

    taxreceipt-e1286146260435.jpg

    http://www.thirdway.org/publications/335
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    Oct 04, 2010 11:10 PM GMT
    I like the 4th item best...hey, we can balance the budget by not paying interest on the National Debt!icon_biggrin.gif

    Seriously, the problem with this is who gets to name the various categories...it's tough to call pork by their right names without the pork-receivers taking umbrage, or to have social programs attacked via a bad-sounding name.
  • Webster666

    Posts: 9217

    Oct 04, 2010 11:42 PM GMT
    Oh, and would you be willing to have your taxes raised to pay a bunch of government accountants to crank out and send this information to everyone in America, every year ?
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    Oct 05, 2010 12:57 AM GMT
    I actually like this idea. In the military we receive something like this to break down the benefits if serving (it's more of a retention tool now due too to high turnover rates).

    So just hire some unemployed accountants or people to do this after tax season and it could be win/win. It is a govt created job so I guess there is still a 'lose' situation with paying those workers.
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    Oct 05, 2010 1:00 AM GMT
    $0.24 for the arts...what a fucking waste of money.


    ...oh wait I'm a professional visual artist...lolz
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    Oct 05, 2010 1:11 AM GMT
    Christian73 saidI came across this on a friend's Facebook page and I think it's a fascinating idea that would definitely help with transparency. In fact, I think we should receive one for state and local taxes as well. Curious what you think:


    "The goal is to keep Americans informed about where their tax money really goes and to force citizens to confront the hard choices we’ll have to make to do something about our staggering and endless budget deficits. It also offers an antidote to the budget blather on both the right (e.g. Republicans who claim they can balance the budget by snuffing out waste, fraud, and abuse without touching Social Security, Medicare, or defense) and on the left (e.g. Democrats who think that boosting taxes on a small slice of the population will do anything to raise the money needed to finance our spending.)

    Okay, somebody give me one good reason why we’re not doing this."

    taxreceipt-e1286146260435.jpg

    http://www.thirdway.org/publications/335


    This is awesome, transparency to the nth degree...What are the chances that both parties will block even to become a reality? If we really wanted it.
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    Oct 05, 2010 1:29 AM GMT
    They need to add one more:

    TARP (Trouble Asset Relief Program)....guess how much each taxpayer monies would go to this?
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    Oct 05, 2010 2:01 AM GMT
    uombroca saidThey need to add one more:

    TARP (Trouble Asset Relief Program)....guess how much each taxpayer monies would go to this?


    Actually the program ends today and they are estimating $66 billion to be the cost since most banks have paid it back

    Since we have about 136,000,000 filing tax returns that equals $485 per person filing a return (not including corporations) and for all 310,000,000 that is $212 per person. Even less than the $200 billion for Katrina.

    It is a shame this has gotten so much attention from the moronic news reporters, especially since the wars have actually really COST us over a trilllion.
    Not as if we put a trillion aside to shore up the capital structure of the US to prevent hedge funds from making money from a dicey, uncertain situation.

    Oh no, we actually SPENT 1 trillion on Iraq and Afganistan. But, by all means, keep your focus on the mysterious and angering TARP, the biggest head fake of all time. Its really important.
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    Oct 05, 2010 3:48 AM GMT
    I bet I could find a freshman at a community college who could program a code that would generate this automatically when people file.

    It would be nice to have since we would have proof of our contributions to the government and no longer have to succumb to the blanket statement of "your taxpayer dollars".
  • jim_sf

    Posts: 2094

    Oct 05, 2010 3:55 AM GMT
    Pinny saidI bet I could find a freshman at a community college who could program a code that would generate this automatically when people file.


    ...and it'd take said freshman about, oh, ten minutes to code, plus another half-hour or so to fine-tune the layout and make it pretty.

    I like this idea, mostly so that people can see just how much we really spend on the military versus what we really spend on education or infrastructure or foreign aid.
  • KissTheSky

    Posts: 1981

    Oct 05, 2010 4:10 AM GMT
    I think this is a great idea. Is this something one party is for and the other against? I would love every struggling family that's pinching pennies to keep their kids fed and the rent paid to know that they're paying hundreds of dollars every year for 2 wars they did not vote for and the majority of citizens no longer support. Maybe the next time a politician tries to whip the nation into another war frenzy, some level-headed people would stop to ask themselves if they want another multi-hundred dollar line item on their tax bill every year.
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    Oct 05, 2010 4:17 AM GMT
    It's a start.

    Something that has been a great success in Britain is opening up as much data as possible to public scrutiny, such as the COINS database of spending.

    The public deserve to know how every dime of their money was spent and how the contracts were awarded. It is transparency that leads to improved government.
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    Oct 05, 2010 4:32 AM GMT
    personally---i'd like a "check the box" system of paying taxes. let me decide how much of my taxes go to where when i pay taxes each year. give the budgeting power to the people---not the congressmen.
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    Oct 05, 2010 4:35 AM GMT
    HTownRunner saidpersonally---i'd like a "check the box" system of paying taxes. let me decide how much of my taxes go to where when i pay taxes each year. give the budgeting power to the people---not the congressmen.


    Totally impractical. Roads would not get built, streets would not be lit, no-one would pay for the fire service, police force, coastguard, military, US embassies in foreign countries, social security, care for the elderly, education....

    We live in a *representative* democracy. If you want to see what direct democracy does, look at the basket-case of California.
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    Oct 05, 2010 5:38 AM GMT
    TigerTim said
    HTownRunner saidpersonally---i'd like a "check the box" system of paying taxes. let me decide how much of my taxes go to where when i pay taxes each year. give the budgeting power to the people---not the congressmen.


    Totally impractical. Roads would not get built, streets would not be lit, no-one would pay for the fire service, police force, coastguard, military, US embassies in foreign countries, social security, care for the elderly, education....

    We live in a *representative* democracy. If you want to see what direct democracy does, look at the basket-case of California.


    The situation in California is not an simple as you think...there are certain historical issues that make the budget crisis definitely intolerable and would agree with you is deplorable our services have been cut, our cities governments have been depleted of their own money to go back to Sacramento in view that both sides are to blame without a budget...starting with Proposition13 enacted by popular vote to amend the California Constitution in 1978 in essence -The proposition lowered property taxes by rolling back property values to their 1975 value and restricted annual increases in assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2% per year. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value except upon (a) change in ownership or (b) completion of new construction. With this measure, municipal cities were stripped of revenue and looked at Sacramento for the 'defecit' they previously held to run.

    In addition to lowering property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It also requires a two-thirds vote majority in local elections for local governments wishing to raise special taxes.

    This in a sense hold us 'hostage' to the minority interest..since it is almost impossible to get consensus on two thirds vote. There is now a plan in the upcoming elections to require a simple 'majority' to pass a budget since you can not change Proposition 13 without going back to the public and it is unlikely that it would be repealed.

    I just want to point out that there are diverse problems in California that have made the budget crisis the most absurd, but we have to look at the several problems and issues that California faces.
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    Oct 05, 2010 7:17 AM GMT
    HTownRunner saidpersonally---i'd like a "check the box" system of paying taxes. let me decide how much of my taxes go to where when i pay taxes each year. give the budgeting power to the people---not the congressmen.


    Yea a country with the attention span of a goldfish would do really well under this system icon_rolleyes.gif.
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    Oct 05, 2010 10:36 AM GMT
    It would be fantastic if we could get something like this yearly.

    However, I'm sure it would lead to unreasonable targeting of the various buckets, which would lead to politicians trying to squeeze funding into larger buckets to hide what was being spent.


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    Oct 05, 2010 11:50 AM GMT
    KissTheSky saidI think this is a great idea. Is this something one party is for and the other against? I would love every struggling family that's pinching pennies to keep their kids fed and the rent paid to know that they're paying hundreds of dollars every year for 2 wars they did not vote for and the majority of citizens no longer support. Maybe the next time a politician tries to whip the nation into another war frenzy, some level-headed people would stop to ask themselves if they want another multi-hundred dollar line item on their tax bill every year.

    Republicans hate this idea. Their campaign rhetoric is "just cut spending" (right after "just cut taxes"), but when cornered into choosing what to cut, they will only come up with the minuscule programs that won't leave a dent, unlike the big boy entitlement programs and the military. And neither party has the balls to cut those.
  • DiverScience

    Posts: 1426

    Oct 05, 2010 1:05 PM GMT
    Conceptually it's a good idea. The problem is that people have no idea of how much money has to go to totally unglamorous things if hte country's going to function at all. Much less the things that are good, but sound like wastes.

    For example, the flu/volcano/storm money that was so much mocked and maligned... right before it was desperately needed.
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    Oct 05, 2010 2:51 PM GMT
    It should read like a P&L sheet. We should also show what we should not pay for since we are not treated equally. Like, let's get a discount for military spending since we are being kept from serving. Then let's take one for Medicaid and other insurance premiums since we will pay more over time then straights cause we can't marry.... then from public services like the police, since we are not protected from hate crimes. The list goes on...

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    Oct 05, 2010 9:18 PM GMT
    TigerTim said
    HTownRunner saidpersonally---i'd like a "check the box" system of paying taxes. let me decide how much of my taxes go to where when i pay taxes each year. give the budgeting power to the people---not the congressmen.

    Totally impractical. Roads would not get built, streets would not be lit, no-one would pay for the fire service, police force, coastguard, military, US embassies in foreign countries, social security, care for the elderly, education....

    We live in a *representative* democracy. If you want to see what direct democracy does, look at the basket-case of California.

    Timely statement. Just read an article that is as close to what you described, where a homeowner was responsible for a payment to ensure fire department protection, but did not and--you guessed it, they let his home burn down.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39516346/ns/us_news-life/
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    Oct 05, 2010 9:21 PM GMT
    southbeach1500 said
    1969er saidRepublicans hate this idea.

    Cite your source to back up your statement please.

    You're funny, if not predictable. How about a rewriting?
    "Due to the overwhelming number of examples during this campaign period where Republicans were silenced when pushed to give clear examples of where to cut the spending they insist on..."
    Or were you trying to make me prove that they didn't reply?
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    Oct 05, 2010 10:10 PM GMT
    southbeach1500 said
    1969er said
    southbeach1500 said
    1969er saidRepublicans hate this idea.

    Cite your source to back up your statement please.

    You're funny, if not predictable. How about a rewriting?
    "Due to the overwhelming number of examples during this campaign period where Republicans were silenced when pushed to give clear examples of where to cut the spending they insist on..."
    Or were you trying to make me prove that they didn't reply?

    Where in the statement below (which is the entire contents of the link provided) does it say Republicans hate the idea of providing the referenced receipt in the OP?

    Nowhere. So please do provide your proof that Republicans hate the idea of providing a receipt.

    For many Americans, the amount they pay in taxes is larger than any purchase they make during the year, but studies show they know almost nothing about where that money goes to. This contributes to ridiculous beliefs, like the view that 20% of government spending goes to foreign aid, for example. An electorate unschooled in basic budget facts is a major obstacle to controlling the nation’s deficit, not to mention addressing a host of economic and social problems. We suggest that everyone who files a tax return receive a “taxpayer receipt.” This receipt would tell them to the penny what their taxes paid for based on the amount they paid in federal income taxes and FICA.

    Oh, stop asking for proof. You fully understand (and likely believe) the concept that Republicans put spending cuts on their talking points, but do not, and have not addressed the means to do so. This receipt shows the order of magnitude, and is a good teaching tool for everyone to understand that those talking points are moot if the larger issues aren't addressed.
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    Oct 06, 2010 11:12 AM GMT
    Christian73 saidI came across this on a friend's Facebook page and I think it's a fascinating idea that would definitely help with transparency. In fact, I think we should receive one for state and local taxes as well. Curious what you think:


    "The goal is to keep Americans informed about where their tax money really goes and to force citizens to confront the hard choices we’ll have to make to do something about our staggering and endless budget deficits. It also offers an antidote to the budget blather on both the right (e.g. Republicans who claim they can balance the budget by snuffing out waste, fraud, and abuse without touching Social Security, Medicare, or defense) and on the left (e.g. Democrats who think that boosting taxes on a small slice of the population will do anything to raise the money needed to finance our spending.)

    Okay, somebody give me one good reason why we’re not doing this."

    taxreceipt-e1286146260435.jpg

    http://www.thirdway.org/publications/335


    I can think of ten good reasons why we're not doing this, just off the top of my head.

    1. It's an unnscessary and expensive duplication. For anyone who cares, the information has already been published a number of different times. Those who truely care will look for the information and those who don't will look at it briefly and throw it away.

    2. While it mentions income earned and taxes paid, it doesn't adress the issue of tax rebates. After a rebate each item is changed substantially. So, it is actually inaccurate.

    3. With Income Tax rebates figured by any combination of standard deductions and other deductions, to create any real knowledge of the catagories of expendature of a persons tax dollars it would have to be almost individually taylored. Add in to that equation the people who actually itemize deductions and it does have to be individually generated.

    4.While it might tell you where the money is supposed to go, it doesn't actually reflect where the mone truely goes. It doesn't take into account fraud, waste, abuse and inefficency or borrowing from one agency for other spending. At best it would lull uninformed people into complacency about taxation because it doesn't represent any real issues involved intaxation.

    5. It doesn't take into account that 38% of all american households have either a zero or negative Income Tax liability. Somehow I think that the people paying no taxes or getting a rebate from money they didn't pay into the system don't really care about how taxes are spent, unless they are the taxes of someone else that benifits them.

    6. It doesn't take into account the wide gap in the amount of Income tax paid compared to earning level. The top 1% of income earners bare 40% of the Income Tax burden. The bottom 50% pay less than 3% of the Income tax collected. By avoiding the real issues it doesn't do much more than serve to move attention away from the real issues of taxation, which is most likely it's intended pourpose.

    7. It shifts attention away from the real issues of overspending and poor spending choices by the federal government by giving people who arn't as edducated and aware about issues as they should be a feel good piece of paper that , frankly, isn't worth the paper it would be printed on.

    8. It doesn't address what portion of the dollars going to each individual catagory is actually being used for paying the bureaucracy and the portion that actually goes for the stated pourpose in each catagory.

    9. It doesn't address the hidden costs of trying to comply with the current tax code and it's complexity. Each year Americans spend 6.5 billion hours preparing tax forms. Businesses spend 800 million hours complying with tax code. Cost of of compliance for federal taxpayers (filling out forms and and related chores) was $265 billion in 2005.

    10. It's a huge waste of resources! It's a wast of time,capital and tangable rescorces. How many forests do you think you have to kill in order to provide this "recipt" to all tax filers each year ? We already have enough spending from Washington, how much more do you think this is going to cost? I'm no environmentalist, but I do beleive and support wise use of resources and this is not wise use by any streatch of the imagination.

    Basically, all you would be doing by creating this each year would be wasting time and money and creating a lot of papper to fill incinerators and landfills. For all of you who think this is a good idea and like it, I say knock yourselves out, As long as you are all donating all of the money for it and don't raise my taxes one thin dime.
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    Oct 06, 2010 11:14 AM GMT
    1969er said
    KissTheSky saidI think this is a great idea. Is this something one party is for and the other against? I would love every struggling family that's pinching pennies to keep their kids fed and the rent paid to know that they're paying hundreds of dollars every year for 2 wars they did not vote for and the majority of citizens no longer support. Maybe the next time a politician tries to whip the nation into another war frenzy, some level-headed people would stop to ask themselves if they want another multi-hundred dollar line item on their tax bill every year.

    Republicans hate this idea. Their campaign rhetoric is "just cut spending" (right after "just cut taxes"), but when cornered into choosing what to cut, they will only come up with the minuscule programs that won't leave a dent, unlike the big boy entitlement programs and the military. And neither party has the balls to cut those.


    I don't like the idea. Not because I'm a Republican. Because it is a ridiculous idea that would become nothing more than another example of an expensive government program that accomplishes nothing but waste. It neither informes about nor addresses any of the issues of taxation. It would simply be another big spending program creating a drag on the economy.

    As for the rest of your post, really?
    How many Republicans do you know? You want to know about specific cuts and plans that Republicans are dscussing? Let me give you a few.

    1. No Income Tax hikes on anyone for any reason. If someone paying a third or more of their income to the government isn't enough, we arn't paying too little in taxes, the government is spending too much. No one should be forced to pay more and more for a faulty product that doesn't deliver.

    2.Focus on all spending! Not just discretionary spending. Step 1) Start by raising the retirement age for Social Security, gradually for everyone 10 years or more from retirement. Time for them to prepare and the system to stabalize. Step 2) Allow younger workers to put a portion of their retirement money into the markets. Not all people, but some and not all of their money, but some of their money.Something that all should not have to do, but should be free to do. It should be our call, not the governments. Step 3) Start means testing Social security. The same for Medicare. That doesn't mean the "rich" don't get benifits, just that they get less generous benifits.

    3. No more blind checks handed out to the military. No check is written without knowing fully what it is paying for.

    4. No to all earmarks! No more bridges to nowhere, no more water parks or taxpayer funded multi million dollar schools and hospitals or highways that no one uses named for politicians.

    5. A 10% across-the-board cut in every government program and agency. It's hard to do in some cases, but necessary to do in all cases! 10% of a $2trillion budget is $200 billion, you do the math.

    6.Establish a new Medicare “defined contribution” system as we transition away from today’s costly and inefficient fee-for-service system. New retirees, just like federal workers, would receive a government contribution to purchase the health insurance that best meets their needs. The contribution, or “premium assistance,” would be capped but reviewed periodically. An individual’s contribution would be adjusted according to income and underlying medical condition.

    7.Increase Retirement Savings. Automatic enrollment, whereby workers are automatically enrolled in employer-sponsored retirement savings but allowed to opt out, should be expanded, and automatic IRA, a simple payroll deduction system that small businesses would offer to employees, should be created. Workers should be encouraged to include annuity-like products, which ensure that they will not outlive their savings, in their retirement plans.

    8. Enact spending caps. Washington has no enforceable limits on its spending. Discretionary spending has nearly doubled since congress has allowed it's spending caps to expire in 2002.The repeated bypassing of Pay-As-You-Go rules has rendered that budget constraint irrelevant. As long as Congress remains under pressure to spend, Members need annual spending caps to help them set priorities and make the necessary trade-offs. Congress should enact a firm cap on the annual increase in total government spending, limited to inflation plus population growth. It should also include triggers and other protections to prevent lawmakers from bypassing this cap.

    9.Stop digging. A recession is no excuse for irresponsible federal spending. Washington should repeal the remaining stimulus funds, which have failed to create jobs and growth. Any new unemployment assistance should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. Remaining TARP funds should be rescinded before they can be allocated to new spending. Most important, lawmakers must repeal Obamacare, a ticking spending and deficit time bomb.

    10. Empower States. Washington taxes families, subtracts a hefty administrative cost, and sends the remaining revenues back to state and local governments with specific rules dictating how they may and may not spend the money. Instead of performing many functions poorly, Congress should focus on performing a few functions well. Most highway, education, justice, and economic development programs should be devolved to state and local governments, which have the flexibility to tailor local programs to local needs (thus likely performing those functions at a lower taxpayer cost).

    11. Empower the Private sector. Anyone who has dealt with the post office or lived in public housing understands how wasteful, inefficient, and unresponsive government can be. Government ownership of business also crowds out private companies and encourages protected entities to take unnecessary risks. After promising profits, government-owned businesses frequently lose billions of dollars, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Any government function that can also be found in the yellow pages may be a candidate for privatization. Washington should also develop a plan to sell unused land and assets, which could include government-owned dams in the Western U.S., underutilized government buildings, and commercially oriented land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service.

    12. Ban Corporate Welfare.Even before the financial bailouts, Washington spent more on corporate welfare ($90 billion) than on homeland security ($70 billion). There is no justification for taxing working Americans to subsidize profitable companies. Lawmakers could start by reforming America’s largest corporate welfare program— farm subsidies, which are overwhelmingly distributed to large, profitable agribusinesses rather than struggling family farmers. Other programs like the Technology Innovation Program should be eliminated.

    13. Eliminate Pork and waste. Each year, Washington loses $98 billion to payment errors and pays $25 billion to maintain vacant federal properties. Washington also diverts about $20 billion annually into pork projects, corrupting the legislative process by assigning taxpayer dollars based on lobbying rather than merit.

    14. Bring Federal Pay in Line with the Private Sector. Not only is the federal government doing too many things best left to the private sector and to state governments but, adding insult to injury, it pays the federal employees who carry out those tasks substantially more than they would earn in the private sector. Total compensation—hourly wages plus benefits—is 30 to 40 percent above that of comparable private sector workers. Congress should bring equity to federal pay and align federal compensation with market rates. Doing so would save taxpayers approximately $47 billion a year.

    15. End All Diver