One of my well-paid physician clients was so bothered by the extension of the Bush tax cuts back in December that he sent a check to the US Treasury to apply towards the skyrocketing national debt. As it turns out, that payment is tax deductible as a charitable donation, so he ended up getting back one-third of the money he sent to the government as part of his tax refund.

Most people are aware that they can deduct donations made to a charitable organization. Did you know that donations made to a local, state, or federal government count too? According to the IRS in Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, qualified charitable organizations include:

The United States or any state, the District of Columbia, a U.S. possession (including Puerto Rico), a political subdivision of a state or U.S. possession, or an Indian tribal government or any of its subdivisions that perform substantial government functions. Note. To be deductible, your contribution to this type of organization must be made solely for public purposes.

Example 1. You contribute cash to your city’s police department to be used as a reward for information about a crime. The city police department is a qualified organization, and your contribution is for a public purpose. You can deduct your contribution.

Example 2. You make a voluntary contribution to the social security trust fund, not earmarked for a specific account. Because the trust fund is part of the U.S. Government, you contributed to a qualified organization. You can deduct your contribution.

Wondering how to make your payment to the national debt? For starters, how much do you want to give? Let’s assume that each American wants to help pay down the US debt, and all 300 million people send in $100. That would reduce our $14 trillion debt by just $30 billion. You would think so many people giving money to the government would knock down the debt by more than 0.2%.

Even so, if you are equally apprehensive by the current situation as my client is and are willing to make a small dent in the federal debt, here are the instructions as provided by the federal government at www.treasurydirect.gov:

How do you make a contribution to reduce the debt?

There are two ways for you to make a contribution to reduce the debt:

  • You can make a contribution online either by credit card, checking or savings account at www.Pay.gov
  • You can write a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and in the memo section, notate that it’s a Gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. Mail your check to:Attn Dept G
    Bureau of the Public Debt
    P. O. Box 2188
    Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

In case you’re wondering:

With a population of 300 million and a debt of $14 trillion, each American now owes a whopping $46,666.67. To quote Benny Southstreet from Guys and Dolls, “That’s a lot of lettuce.”

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