There was an an earlier meta-discussion about allowing moderators to skip the "bounty refund" step when closing a question that was declined, but I wanted to spin off waffles's comments into a separate feature request:
I am open to amending some of our close logic to allow for casting close votes on bountied questions (even if we require mod intervention for the final closing). A close sends a much more powerful message when multiple users are involved.
It is a weird thing that users can vote to close any question except bountied questions: it allows a single user to short-circuit the community moderation process, and in many cases, forces a moderator's hand to act unilaterally (or appear to act unilaterally).
As the earlier discussion showed, allowing bounties to go away without some thought is not ideal; a bounty is meant to be, as Shog9 put it, a "contract": additional reputation is offered in exchange for better quality answers. Making it non-refundable ensures the people writing those answers don't get the rug pulled out from under them.
Because of this, bounty refunds are an extraordinary action that—if done too often—could potentially undermine the system as a whole. They should require moderators to look at and see if taking such a drastic step is warranted.
Instead, I'd like to formally propose the following:
- Allow users to vote to close bountied questions.
- If a bountied question attracts 5 close votes, generate an auto-flag that alerts a moderator to deal with the question.
- Moderator uses a magic button that removes the bounty and allows the closure to go through.