15 Things You Can Get the Government to Pay You to Do

Every year, you pay your taxes. And millions of Americans get some of that money back in the form of a tax refund. But what if there were other ways to earn your money back? Squeezing more money out of Uncle Sam’s hands can be more than just a fun thought. You can actually do many things to get the government to pay you.
The basic premise behind most of these ideas: The government needs certain things. And there are tasks we can all do to improve society to some degree. The government incentivizes those things through cash payouts and tax incentives. Here are 15 ways you can get the government to pay you.

1. Raise bees

Honeybees at an apiary
Starting an apiary could earn you money. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Pay: $200 per hive, up to $2,400 per year
Many people freak out at the sight of a bee. But the world needs bees, and the government is willing to pay you, under certain circumstances, to raise them. Starting an apiary is probably not on many people’s bucket list, but it can be a rewarding enterprise. If you can handle the incessant buzzing of your black and yellow buddies, this can be a way to earn a living.
Next: You can simply do some work around the house.

2. Make your home more efficient

Solar panels on a roof
Solar panels could equal money in your pocket. | iStock.com

Pay: Over $1,000 per year depending on energy rates and tax credits
Can’t get enough HGTV? Want to make your home more efficient while simultaneously boosting its value? You should look at installing solar panels and other green energy. One possible way you can turn this investment into a money-making opportunity is by selling the extra energy you generate back to the grid. The government also makes installing solar panels attractive by handing out tax credits and deductions.
Next: How about a paid vacation?

3. Take a vacation

Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea take a swim
Then President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea take a swim in the waters of Megan Bay, St. Thomas. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Pay: $300 to visit U.S. Virgin Islands
Getting paid to take a vacation? Who wouldn’t sign up for that? If you’re planning to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, that’s exactly what can happen. No, you won’t get your hotel and travel expenses completely comped, but you can be reimbursed for your travel costs. This is a special situation, however, as the islands are celebrating their centennial anniversary and trying to bait people to come and celebrate with them.
Next: Science wants your body.

4. Become a lab rat

Medical doctor doing allergy tests
A doctor does allergy tests. | iStock.com/humonia

Pay: Varies, with at least one test paying $3,000
If you’d rather not go green with solar panels, you can allow the government to turn you green — for a price. Numerous universities and laboratories need to run experiments, and you can get paid for letting them test on you. One example? Getting paid $3,000 to be infected with the flu. Or, if that’s not a particularly attractive option, you could get paid to smoke marijuana.
Next: Where’s the fire?

5. Watch for forest fires

A forest fire burns in California
A forest fire burns in California. | Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Pay: Around $12-$15 per hour
If you love the outdoors and solitude, you don’t need to be stuck in a ghost town to earn a living. You can also sign up to be a fire lookout. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You’re in a lookout shelter — high on a mountain, in most cases — looking for forest fires. It can be lonely and isolating, but for some of these “freaks on the peaks” that’s the entire point.
Next: Relocating could earn you a check.

6. Live in certain states and cities

Alaskan wilderness
Alaska will give you a check to live there. | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images

Pay: Nearly $2,000 per year
handful of cities and states will actually pay you to live there. You’ve probably heard about how residents of Alaska receive annual checks. This is true, though it doesn’t amount to a lot. Payouts from the Alaska Permanent Fund — generated from the state’s oil reserves — amount to less than $2,000 per year. But still, it’s better than living in other states and getting paid nothing.
Next: Spruce up your home.

7. Remodel your house

Remodeling a house
There’s value in remodeling. | iStock.com

Pay: Thousands of dollars per year
If you’d like to work on your home, you can take advantage of grant programs that essentially pay you to remodel. These incentives improve housing stock and increase housing values, but they can be tricky to apply for. They also range from city to city and state to state. If you dig around, you’ll find you can get property tax deductions or cheap (or free) loans to help with the costs.
Next: There’s another way to generate green by going green.

8. Get an electric car

A Nissan Leaf charging up
A Nissan Leaf charges. | Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Pay: Gas savings, state tax credits, and federal tax credits between $2,500 and $7,500
On the surface, it’s hard to consider buying a new Tesla a money-saving measure. But it can be — and not just in terms of gas savings. Electric cars are fairly widespread these days, and in some places you can actually get paid to buy one.
In the U.K., for example, the plug-in car grant will cover more than one-third of the cost of a new electric car or up to a certain limit depending on the model. The U.S. also has incentives to buy electric cars, including tax credits.
Next: Make money roughing it.

9. Live in a ghost town

An abandoned pool
An abandoned pool | Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Pay: Free room and board
If you can stand long hours alone, then perhaps an extended stay in Garnet, Montana would suit your fancy. Garnet is an intact ghost town, which has been more or less abandoned since the 1940s. The federal government needs people to stay there for upkeep reasons. If you sign up, you’ll get a furnished cabin and money for food. But prepare to go without modern plumbing and internet access.
Next: Leave the country.

10. Move to another country

Air New Zealand plane with Lord of the Rings livery
New Zealand will pay tech professionals to come live in its country. | Air New Zealand/Getty Images

Pay: Thousands of dollars per year
Other countries seek talented immigrants. They need people with skills, and some governments are willing to pay to attract them. One example is New Zealand, which is actively recruiting tech professionals and offering monetary incentives to get them to the South Pacific. Programs like this are selective, of course, but if you qualify it can be a new way to see the world and earn a paycheck while you do it.
Next: Take care of your elders.

11. Care for the elderly

hands holding the hand of an elderly person
You might be able to get financial aid if you care for an elderly family member. | iStock.com/diego_cervo

Pay: Varies
Do you have a parent, grandparent, or other family members who require a caretaker? You might need to sacrifice your career or hobbies to take care of them. That means giving up earnings, too. But there is some help out there through Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which allow some elderly folks to hire family members as caretakers. There’s a lot of red tape to push through, but it’s possible to get paid to care for elderly family members.
Next: Put on your overalls.

12. Farm certain crops

An Iowa farmer harvests corn
An Iowa farmer harvests corn. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pay: Thousands of dollars per year
Many farmers are subsidized by the government. You might be aware of the controversy surrounding agricultural subsidies. These are doled out to farmers to grow (or in some cases not grow) certain crops. There are several criteria you need to qualify for a subsidy, and the subsidies themselves take several forms.
Next: The government wants you to have a nest egg.

13. Save for retirement

plant growing in jar of change
The government has incentives for you to save your money. | iStock.com

Pay: Tax savings, $4,000 credit for married filers through the Saver’s Credit
You should be saving for retirement. You know that. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that translates to action, and that’s one of the reasons we’re facing a retirement crisis. Thus, the government is taking action by offering tax credits as an incentive to save for retirement. The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit basically allows you to receive a tax credit, up to a certain percentage, on retirement contributions.
Next: Do your civic duty.

14. Go to court

A judge's gavel
The government pays you to judge your peers. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Pay: Federal jurors receive $40 per day
Stanley Hudson fantasized about jury duty. And many other people do, too, especially after learning you are compensated for showing up and judging your peers. It’s not a lot of money, but you can be reimbursed for parking and transportation. You can also become an expert witness, a role in which you might be called upon during proceedings to levy your expertise.
Next: Get insured.

15. Buy health insurance — for now

The HealthCare.gov website
The government might help you with your insurance expenses. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Pay: Average almost $300 per month
Obamacare is in trouble, but the system is intact for now. That means you can still get subsidies for buying health insurance, depending on how much you earn. Of course, because purchasing an insurance policy is now mandated, it makes sense the government should help you with the costs. Things look like they could change, but for now you can still get a subsidy to purchase insurance.