Not taxed enough? Check here to pay more

A person fills out a tax declaration for the 2012 income tax on September 10, 2012

A post in the New York Times Economix blog this morning looks at a House Republican-led proposal to reduce the deficit. It's got an unlikely name, "The Buffett Rule Act of 2012." But no, this is not a millionaire's tax that billionaire Warren Buffett has spearheaded.

Instead, the version passed by the House would let people volunteer to pitch in a little more on their tax bill. There are already some ways to do that, like leaving out some charitable contributions when you deduct from your taxes, as Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, did.

Bruce Bartlett wrote the post for the New York Times Economix blog and has written a book about tax policy. He notes that the Treasury has already collected $7.5 million in voluntary contributions this year. And however unlikely, advocates of this approach could also ask people to forego certain government benefits.

"If the idea is that we are to make personal voluntary contributions to deficit reduction, why should it only be on the tax side?" Bartlett asked, adding, "There are certainly any number of people who are pretty well-to-do who draw Social Security and benefit from other government program." Perhaps their contribution could come in the form of giving up those benefits.

But Bartlett is quick to stress that neither idea can make a real dent in the federal deficit.

"The most that voluntary taxes or voluntary non-taking of benefits is going to add up to is in the millions of dollars," he said, adding, "You've got to have broad based taxation, the federal income tax, the payroll tax."

This other Buffett rule, in Bartlett's estimation, is nothing more than politics.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...