Would it be possible to offer people the option when they fill out their tax forms to designate where their tax dollars go. An accountant friend mentioned it to me as a way to make people who complain about paying taxes more willing to pay, and, to me, it sounds like exactly the sort of behavioral economics strategies that Obama advisors Goolsbee, Sunstein, Thaler, et al like.
If people had the option to choose where their taxes go, there would be a lot less complaining from conservatives who believe that their taxes should only go to defense (that’s just an example), or a liberal might be able to refuse to allow his money to go to defense and opt to send their taxes to education.
In order to make so that everyone didn’t opt to do this, there would have to be some way to make so only those who are really adamant about where their taxes go would opt to do it. It wouldn’t be a question on the form, for example, but rather a note that says, “If you wish to choose where your tax money goes, go to this website, print out so-and-so form and attach it to your tax form.” This way, very few people would probably do it, but those who are very concerned about where their tax dollars go would surely do it and probably get some piece of mind from it.
Another plus side to this, it seems, is if all of statistics are published on a site like data.gov and we could see the trends or tendancies of the American tax payers, it could open up a debate about certain programs. Tax season might become a time to really discuss different aspects of the government and the merits of funding them because people can actually have more of a direct say in how they’re funded.
Now, I know this will do nothing to address the fact that a lot of people don’t want to pay taxes because they want to keep they’re money, but they’re are still a lot of folks who would mind a lot less if they knew their money was going to something they believed in.