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On Elections and Taxes


What’s with that $3 donation checkbox on my tax forms, anyway?

Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney squared off last night for the first of their scheduled presidential debates.  Regardless of who you think won, or who you were rooting for, this campaign season is going to wind up impacting your wallet one way or another.

It’s an old saw in political debate — taxes.  A lot of it’s just empty rhetoric on the part of all parties involved, but the outcome of this year’s election will likely have effect on the amount you pay in taxes for the next few years (and even decades, depending on the legislation).  Ah, taxes…a topic for every age throughout all time!

Remember, part of the whole controversy that led Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence was the issue of unfair taxes (the revolutionary refrain of “No taxation without representation!”).  With or without representation, however, it’s pretty tough to get through life without having to fill out a tax return.  Benjamin Franklin entertained no illusions on this score:

In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.

So whether it’s “Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES! (George Bush I, 1992) or “Spreading the wealth around (Obama, 2008) or even Romney’s reluctance to release his personal tax records this year, taxes are always a hot topic in American political discourse.

Don’t worry, though.  We’re not looking to get you to vote for either candidate, or a third party candidate for that matter.  Either way, Refundo will be here to help you receive your tax refund in the quickest and most hassle-free way possible.

Today’s post doesn’t have to do with the tax rate or the deficit or nail-biting about the fate of Social Security.  Nope.  It’s something much more mundane than that.

Remember that little box on your tax return where it says “I would like to designate $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund” (or PECF)? It’s an easy enough thing to miss, really, so don’t feel bad if you don’t.  Here’s a refresher:

Back in the late 1970s, the federal government of the United States decided to institute a measure that would make casual donations to party candidates.  In those days, the default amount for taxpayers to donate was $1, a good index of how far inflation’s gone since then.

Most of the money donated in this manner goes to the two main parties; a puny amount is left over for any contenders who manage to receive over 5% of the vote.  For all their disagreements, if there’s one thing the Democrats and Republicans can agree on it’s lining the coffers of their campaign funds with dollars donated from the general public.

Despite the convenience it was intended to offer, however, the number of citizens who opt to contribute money in this way has dwindled over the years.  Back in 2005, the tax attorney Charles Rubin indicated on his blog that “[w]hen initiated in 1981, 28.6% of taxpayers made the designation [to pay in].  In recent years, this has dropped to 9.1%.”

Presumably, this number has only continued to decline since then.  Though many on both sides of the aisle have fought for publicly-funded campaigns, it’s never really taken in the U.S.  But if you’ve ever wondered why that question appears on your tax forms or why your tax preparer/ERO is required to ask you in helping you file them, that’s why.  Will you check that box this next year? That’s up to you!

Topics: Tax Updates, ERO, tax preparer, taxes, society, elections


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