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David M.Green Bookkeeping and Tax Service

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The Real Story Behind the $3 Tax Check Off Box

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 11:10 PM
For decades, taxpayers have had the option of checking off a box on their tax returns to earmark money for the Presidential Election Campaign.

The amount you can allocate for the fund started... out at $1 and was hiked to $3 in 1994. And while the option was quite popular at the start, the number of people designating money for the fund has been dropping ever since.

In 1977, nearly 29% of taxpayers had opted to contribute to the fund. By 1992, that percentage dropped to 19%. And in 2013, a mere 6% of taxpayers had checked off the box designating $3 toward presidential campaign funding.

As a result, funding received via the checkoff box has dropped from a peak of $71 million in 1994 to $39 million in 2012, the most recent year for which the annual total is available.

Why the decline?

For one, there's a common misconception that this money is coming out of the taxpayer's own pocket, so people struggling financially are much less likely to give more money to the government than they have to. But really, the box simply provides taxpayers with a choice to steer $3 of overall tax revenue collected by the IRS for this specific fund -- it doesn't add to someone's tax liability or reduce their refund.

The obscurity of the check off box is also likely a factor, with many people not even realizing it exists.

The check off box on tax returns isn't going away, however. Taxpayers can still elect to contribute $3 to the overall Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

While that money will no longer be used specifically for nominating conventions, it will be used to match funds for presidential primary candidates during their campaigns and to provide grants for general election nominees, according to the Federal Election Commission.

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