By Diana Whittle
The malls are packed with shoppers and stockings are hung by the fire, but local school districts hope residents will add one more item to their holiday to do list: a tax-credit donation. It’s a simple way, officials say, to redirect tax dollars to help students and public schools in Tempe and West Chandler.
Donations to any school in the Tempe Elementary, Kyrene or Tempe Union High School districts can be applied against the taxpayer’s state income tax through the Arizona tax credit program.
Making a donation creates eligibility for the tax credit—even if the donor is not a parent to a child enrolled in a local school. The amount donated, up to $200 per person or $400 for married couples filing jointly, will be the amount of state tax credit that can be claimed.
Donating to a tax-credit eligible organization will most likely leave the contributor in a tax neutral situation—meaning about the same total amount can be claimed whether using the tax credits or just paying the tax. The upside is that by donating, taxpayers get a say in how the money is spent by choosing which school or program to support.
Contributions can be up to the amount of the donor’s expected Arizona tax liability. Contributing more than the total state tax amount allows the credits to be carried forward five years, so not to worry if the donation results in more credits than taxes.
Officials say tax credits give taxpayers a dollar for-dollar tax credit, while at the same time helping to support extracurricular programs for students, defined as sponsored educational or recreational activities, which require enrolled students to pay a fee in order to participate in them—such as music and arts, athletic uniforms and equipment, field trips, after-school clubs or student leadership programs.
Donations can be made either to a specific school or a program within the district.
Beginning in 2016, the deadline for contributions was extended to April 15. The donation can be applied to the preceding tax year or the current one.
Additional information can be found on the Arizona Department of Revenue state tax credit page at www.azdor.gov
Each of the school districts in report significant community support.
Tempe Elementary Schools, for example, received $237,545 last year. According to Gabrielle Olson, communications specialist for the district, donated funds were used for after-school enrichment clubs and tutoring, field trips to support classroom curriculum, science excursions, student leadership training and afterschool intramurals and athletics.
“The Tempe schools appreciate the support of parents and the community,” said Olson. “The students in Tempe have increased educational opportunities because of (these) donations.”
Kyrene District Schools collected $969,087 for the 2016 calendar year.
According to Lauren Clark of Kyrene’s marketing and communication office, “Tax credit donations help students participate in extracurricular activities such as athletics, art and music programs, character education and field trips.”
Tempe Union High School District benefited from $1,142,574 in tax credit donations for 2016.
According to Jennifer Liewer, executive director of community relations for the district, “Programs to benefit from the tax credit donations included athletics/sport, clubs, academic competitions, music and performing arts programs, character education programs and technology clubs.”
Now donating is easier than ever, say officials, because payments can be made online through each of the district’s websites. Kyrene School District, www.kyrene.org/taxcredit
Tempe School District, www.tempeschools.org/taxcredit Tempe Union High School District, www.tempeunion.org/taxcredit
In some instances, employers will match their employees’ tax credit donations. If they do, it may double the contributor’s donation. Contributors should remember to print and save the confirmation page to provide to the family’s tax preparer and/or keep for each payer’s tax records.