Voting or Polling on Tax Forms

What is the problem with having voting on issues (like, oh, how the federal budget should be apportioned) done on our yearly taxes?

You get your tax form, you see how much you pay in taxes, and you vote (or at least suggest) where you feel these tax dollars should go. Or, you get your tax form, and you vote on some current issues that aren’t current events per se (like drug reform).

Everyone is supposed to fill out a tax form. It seems to make sense. What would go wrong here?

You mean like making sure that the form that purports to be filled out by John Doe was really filled out by John Doe and not by his disgruntled spouse, or roommate, or some other person?

When you go to the polls to vote, part of what that’s all about (election judges, etc.) is making sure that you are indeed the person you say you are, and that you are indeed entitled to vote. There’d be no way to police voting procedures, if you just had people mail in the forms.

Good point, DDG.

But, I think it’s still a good idea. Right now in MA there are two ballot questions in the coming vote. There is also a third question on taxpayer funding for campaigns that is non-binding. They just want to get the voters opinion, it has no weight. They could do a few questions such as this on tax forms possibly.

Not everyone who is allowed to vote required to fill out a tax form. And not everyone who fills out a tax form is allowed to vote.

Example from above (I posted before I was ready to)

A 16 year old high school with a job might be required to fill out a tax return but not allowed to vote. A 20 year old college student living off loans and parent’s money is allowed to vote but might not have anything to put on a tax return.

Another problem (I keep thinking of them) is when is the vote due? Tax returns for 2001 are filed anywhere from January 2002 until October 2002. That is a long time to wait on a vote.

In Conceivable, you make a very good point. Resident aliens (legal immigrants) are required to pay the same taxes any U. S. citizen is, be they local, state, federal, or anything else (regardless of what some of our recent visitors think!). They are not allowed to vote.

I’ll admit it’s a nice idea in theory, though.

Well, it exludes anybody who is entitled to vote, but doesn’t have to file a tax return (like people with no income). And it includes people who file tax returns, but are not entitled to vote (like those under 18, or those who are not US citizens). And it disenfranchises those who are in breach of their tax filing requirements, which is possibly unconstitutional. (I know nothing about US constitutional law, but surely there’s an issue here.)

This would require ordinary citizens to actually know something about budget expenses. I have absolutely no idea how much money should go towards financing the office of Micronesian Status Negotiations, and would rather not be charged with making such decisions blindly.

On the other hand, I’d finally get a say in where my Federal tax dollars are spent.

First, lets not think that though one would be required to file a tax return that one would also be required to vote. Second, to address DDG, if there are that many shenanigans going on in tax filing then that raising a problem with tax filing not *using tax forms to collect [votes or opinions]. No?

However, more salient points have been addressed which seem outside the scope of my OP. But they are worth discussing, so rather than start a new thread perhaps I will say my piece here. In Conceivable points out, “Not everyone who is allowed to vote required to fill out a tax form. And not everyone who fills out a tax form is allowed to vote.” To the first point, what if everyone was required to file, period? To the second point, you do have me there. I cannot think of a way to address this issue. But if it were only polling that was done and not voting on candidates then do you suppose that it might change your mind? Also, and I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I thought legal immigrants couldn’t just file with an EZ form. Though maybe they can. If taxpayer IDs (SS numbers, for instance) were coded to demonstrate whether a person was or was not a citizen, would this change your mind?

So don’t make them. Besides, I didn’t mean to imply that we would simply average up the responses and say “The federal budget is done!”

Consider specific issues, for example. A referendum to decriminalize drug use. A referendum to decriminalize certain specific drugs. A referendum to legalize prostitution. A poll to determine how we perceive our foriegn policy.

Admittedly I cannot think of anything that I would want to place here that should be voted on… a bit of short-sightedness on my part. :o

erislover, I don’t see a real problem with polling being done on the tax forms. Except that it would be expensive and there are probably cheeper and more scientific ways to take polls then on a tax return.

The main problem also is still time frame. The IRS has to publish tax forms ahead of time and the the returns returns for a year are filed for a nine month period. By the time all returns are filed the issue you are polling on has probably already come and gone. Once again, there are probably cheep, faster and more scientific ways to do a poll of public opinion.

Also, erislover, legal immigrants can and do use the exact same tax forms U.S. citizens to. In fact, I filed using the 1040 EZ from when I got my first job, and I wasn’t naturalized until some years later.

Also when you become a U.S. citizen, your social security number does not change, and the headaches and hassle involved in changing it upon naturalization (not to mention the headaches and hassle involved in becoming a citizen) are painful to think of. As far as I know, and I’m only an immigrant, not a lawyer, there isn’t any provision under U.S. law to change a person’s social security number, so instead you’d have to code something into a database to indicate which specific numbers belonged to citizens and which to non-citizens which would need to be able to be consulted immediately, but still change upon change of status, whether it’s reaching age 18, naturalization or other things.

My head’s spinning just thinking about it!


Looks like we need a clarification from the OP: Are you talking about “opinion polls”, or are you talking about “polls” as in “going to the polls” or actually voting for things like tax referendums?

“Poll” as in “polling place”, as in “voting place”, or “poll” as in “Gallup poll”?

The whole nine yards, m’dear. An issue like drug reform is a current event, but not so current that a poll or vote prepared six months in advance would cripple the system (unlike many issues which require more immediate attention).

It just seems like a way to get more input from the population without requiring additional resources like registration (we’re already taxpayers). The comments given to me here though do betray a certain, how should I say it, impossibility of applying this for voting, so I sort of retreated to official polling.

And, something I meant to say in my last post: I have no qualm about legal immigrants voting, nor anyone who earns an income at all (felons, for example). If they can contribute to the tax pool, they should have a say where it goes.

Your social security number would have to show not just that you were entitled to vote, but where you were entitled to vote - e.g. in Massachussets but not in New York (and perhaps even finer gradations). And this would have to be changed every time you moved, or changed your voting status.

Is this desirable from an administrative point of view?

Is it desirable from a privacy point of view that so much information should be embedded in your social security number, which is used by many people who have no legitimate interest in that information?

What advantage is supposed to accrue from doing this?

And, lastly, do US voters not value the idea of a secret ballot? Voting on a ballot paper which contains your name, address, social security number, name of employer, etc, etc doesn’t sound to me like adherence to the highest democratic standards.

gasp You know, that never even occurred to me, UDS. A very, very good point.

So, dead in the water. I can live with that (er, am living with that… ;)).

Hey, you’re not alone, erislover. Years ago I idly toyed with a very similar idea – including on tax forms a provision for guiding your tax money. Congress could segregate revenue into “popular” and “legislative” areas; they have jurisdiction over the latter, to make sure critical stuff gets funded, but citizen feedback dictates allocation of the former. On the tax form, you could check a box that says, “Do whatever you want,” or you could specify, twenty percent to defense, ten percent to education, five percent to intelligence, ten percent to social security, five percent to environmental enforcement, and so on. If you were a one-issue voter, you could aim a hundred percent at one category or another. I thought it would be hugely interesting to see what this sort of referendum would say about how people wanted their tax dollars spent.

Of course, I abandoned the idea as unworkable for many of the same reasons already raised in this thread: Would the average citizen want to simply say “defense,” or would they aim their money more specifically, as in “air force” or “space weapons” or “the V-22 Osprey program” or whatever? Would you say “environmental enforcement” or would you pick a certain Superfund site? The level of administration necessary to make something like this work would create an unbelievable bureaucratic overhead. That’s aside from the other concerns, about people who pay taxes but don’t vote (resident aliens), or voters who don’t pay taxes (students and the poor), not to mention the lack of anonymity involved.

Just saying that great minds think alike, in terms of a fascinating idea, but that greater minds recognize when an idea that’s fascinating on paper turns out to be impossible to implement in the real world. In other words, you’re hardly alone with this sort of idle speculation. Fun, isn’t it? :smiley: