Warren Buffett can give more money to the government if he wants to

Alec Jacobs Contributor
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Warren Buffett, the billionaire head of Berkshire Hathaway and third richest person in the world, has called repeatedly for increasing taxes on wealthy Americans to help reduce the nation’s deficit.

So last week, GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann called on Buffett to put his money where his mouth is. (Why Buffett’s plan to tax the rich won’t fix the debt)

“Mr. Buffett, write a big check today,” Bachmann said on the campaign trail. “There’s nothing you have to wait for.”

The Daily reports that Bachmann is right: The federal government has had a law on the books for 50 years allowing citizens to make donations to the Bureau of the Public Debt. Donations can be dropped in mailboxes and sent to a West Virginia post office box, or they can be submitted online at www.pay.gov.

So far in 2011, Americans have already contributed about $2 million. Last year, the bureau received $2.8 million in donations. It isn’t a lot — 0.0001% of the deficit — but it’s something.

Jane Olive, a retired teacher from Nevada, donated $100 this year and wrote to 50 friends and relatives suggesting they send money to the bureau as well. “It’s in that spirit of, I can’t do much, but this is a little thing many of us can do,” she told The Daily. “We don’t have to be rich to do it, but it would be wonderful if the rich people did it.”

The law was first created a half-century ago to allow the Treasury to accept money from a woman who left part of her estate to the federal government in her will. But it isn’t common.

“I’ve only seen it once in my whole entire career,” said New York estate planner Joseph Falanga. “As an estate planner … you say, ‘Look, either you’re going to give it to charity or you give it to the U.S. government.’”

All donations to the Bureau of the Public Debt are set aside and used to pay the principal on maturing Treasury bills, said McKayla Braden, the bureau’s spokeswoman.

“We send everybody a thank you,” Braden added.