Great Idea: A Taxpayer Receipt

This idea was floated by Third Way in the US, but totally love this idea for Canada as well (hell, even Aussies). Canadians rarely have a clue about where their tax dollars go to provide some of the excellent services they enjoy.

Corn syrup, milk chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, coconut, almond, soy lecithin… any consumer can read these ingredients and their nutritional value on every package of a 75-cent Almond Joy. What is provided to a taxpayer with a $5,400 tax bill? Nothing. 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.”

The surprisingly readable policy paper outlines the idea. How difficult would it be for Revenue Canada to implement this? I also like the overall category total being provided in each area, every year. The US version might look like this:

Third Way tax receipt

While I generally like to avoid the torches and pitchforks approach to possibly challenging where money is spent by the government (sadly, even Canada has rednecks complaining about spending for the poor or the Arts or level playing fields), I do think it’s a good idea to have open dialogues around government spending and ideas of how our money should be allocated, particularly in a possible time of on-coming austerity. Also, would make for a lot less economic waffling amongst our political parties.

This is probably also on my mind since I await a sizable tax refund from my current government.

via Daniel Pink.