Time running out to gain from school tax credit

It’s a familiar rite of passage: The old year winds down, a new year cranks up, and you start thinking about creative ways to ease the pain of that April 15 date with the Tax Monster.

If you’re among the millions who engage in this annual ritual, why not explore the joyous phenomenon of Arizona’s school tax credit.

Taking advantage of this frequently overlooked program can give you a dollars-and-cents payback on your tax return. It also makes it possible for kids to participate in athletics, play in student musical groups or gain from dozens of other educational enrichment programs they’d otherwise have to forgo.

Best of all, it doesn’t cost you a dime–and you really do get money back.

“While some believe it may be to good to be true, the tax credit donation option is truly simple and beneficial to both the taxpayer and the school,” says Johnny Cruz, communications supervisor for the Kyrene School District, which received almost $1 million last year from tax-savvy residents who took advantage of the opportunity to support their schools and get up to $250 in cash rebates from the state.

Kyrene schools are hoping this year’s results are even more generous.

“The money we receive through tax credits supports a wide variety of important extracurricular and character education programs that rely heavily on tax credit donations in order to thrive,” says Cruz.

In addition to school athletics and music, tax-credit dollars also provide vital funding support for the all-day kindergarten program, youth enrichment, grants and scholarships for students, guest speakers, supplies and other costs that are not available in today’s tight budget environment.

“While we wish the funding was available to fully subsidize many of these programs, we realize that this is not the case,” Cruz says.

“Therefore we must utilize new and innovative methods of fund raising in order to provide the programs that we help make Kyrene a premier district.”

With 25 schools district-wide (13 in the Kyrene Corridor) and a budget that’s primarily limited to school operating expenses, the $876,000 generated through tax credit contributions at the end of 2003 “had a huge impact on our ability to offer our students access to quality extracurricular activities ,” said Cruz.

In order to support stronger, more well-rounded educational opportunities for local kids, and thus broaden their effectiveness as adults, educators say Kyrene Corridor residents shouldn’t overlook the appeal–and simplicity–of the tax credit program.

An appealing twist is that it lets you select the school of your choice, a specific extracurricular or character education program within that school or even a specific child–including your own–to be the beneficiary of your allocation.

The formula for calculating how much you will save on your state taxes is a simple one. If you are a married couple paying $650 for the year and allocate $250 of that ($200 for individuals) to the school tax credit program, you will owe that much less when it comes time to pony up (or get it back as a refund if you haven’t yet paid).

How it works

Here is an abbreviated explanation of the program and how you can participate.

1. Complete an authorization form available in this issue of Wrangler News, the school district’s website, www.kyrene.org or in any Kyrene school.

2. Mail it to the school of your choice or the District Office, or drop it off, by Dec. 31.

3. You will receive a receipt for your contribution, which you should present to your tax professional or submit with your return if you prepare it yourself.

4. Remember that this program is not available to corporations, trusts, etc., only to individuals.

5. It is not necessary for you to have a child in school in order to contribute.

6. You must designate your contribution to a specific school, not to the school district. Any public school grades kindergarten through 12, including charter schools, qualifies.

For specific details that apply to your situation, call (602) 255-3381 or visit the Arizona Department of Revenue website at www.azdor.gov.