The national debt--the amount of debt owed by the United States federal government--now stands at about $16,374,138,498,000. That's sixteen trillion, one-hundred-thirty-eight million, four-hundred-ninety-eight thousand dollars.
This amounts to about:
- $52,000 for every person living in the United States, and
- $135,000 for every household in the United States.
We're talking real money here.
Everyone who pays federal taxes is already helping to pay off this debt--or at least pay the annual interest payments to finance it. However, all Americans have the right to donate money or property to the U.S. government to be used specifically to pay off the debt. The money (or proceeds from the sale of the gift) is placed in a special account to be used to pay at maturity, or to redeem or buy before maturity, an obligation of the U.S. government included in the public debt.
Moreover, such contributions are tax deductible if you itemize your deductions. For these purposes the federal government is treated the same as a charity. Of course taking a deduction for a gift you make to pay off the debt seems a bit counter-productive. Nevertheless, it is possible.
Does anyone ever make such contributions? Yes. The government received a little over $3 million in such gifts the last fiscal year.
The federal government has gone out of its way to make it easy to make such contributions. There are two ways for you to make a contribution to reduce the debt:
- you can make a contribution online either by credit card, or checking or savings account at Pay.gov
- you can write a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and in the memo section, note 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
To take a charitable deduction for such a contribution, you must have written proof you made it. Luckily the Bureau provides a written acknowledgment to the donor for cash contributions toward reducing the public debt. The Bureau ordinarily provides the acknowledgment within two weeks. For cash contributions paid by electronic means, the Bureau transmits an electronic confirmation receipt to the donor.