You see those voluntary contribu-tion list on your state taxes every year. Which ones to say yes to?
—by Katherine Pioli
Every year, filling out your state taxes, you see it: the list of voluntary contributions options. Contributions will be reduced from your refund or added to your tax return. Here are descriptions of this year’s selections and why they may, or may not, be worth your money.
Canine Body Armor Account: This option contributes funds towards the purchase of personal protective body coverings for police service dogs against gunfire. Vests run $700 to $2,200 each. Donations from Utah tax forms will be distributed in amounts up to $3l000 to each police department. Salt Lake City Police Dept.’s K-9 unit alone has eight dogs.
Kurt Oscarson Children’s Organ Transplant Fund: The fund, established in 1992, gives financial assistance through interest-free loans to the families of children requiring organ transplants. A five-member committee oversees the funds and has the ability to waive the loan repayment. Funds raised during the 2011 fiscal year assisted 20 transplant recipients.
Invest More for Education: There is little information about this voluntary contribution fund other than indicating the moneys will be used to support the public education system. With Utah spending per student at $6,212 per year (2011; lowest in the nation, according to governing.com), we say: Let’s convince lawmakers to increase taxes for every taxpayer to better fund our public education system.
Nongame Wildlife Account: The purchase of hunting licenses actually goes a long way toward funding research, monitoring and protection for wild game species – elk, deer, turkey. Nongame animals that aren’t hunted actually get the short end of the stick, with no money from hunting fees set aside for research and habitat protection and other programs to ensure their continued success. By donating to the nongame wildlife account taxpayers can set aside money specifically for study of nongame aquatic and terrestrial species – pigmy rabbits, least chub, spotted frogs, boreal toads. These funds can help with recovery projects for threatened species, but they can also fund population studies that might keep an animal from being listed as endangered.
Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust: Named after a local advocate for homeless and low-income Utahns, this program, which is part of Utah’s 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, is funded exclusively through voluntary contributions on Utah tax forms. Funds are used for programs that offer: temporary shelters, transitional housing, case management, placement in meaningful employment, outreach and day centers with special attention for homeless families with children, the disabled and mentally ill.
Political Party Contributions: A $2 limit is set for this fund contribution. Qualified political parties that you may contribute to are: Utah Constitution Party, Utah Democratic Party, Utah Libertarian Party, Utah Republican Party and Independent American Party. These parties lean to the right. Links to each party’s site are included online through the income tax contributions site.
School District Contributions: This education fund directs money to a specific school district or nonprofit school district foundation of your choice. The codes for each school district are listed on the income tax contribution site.
Spay and Neuter Program: To spay or neuter a cat or dog can be upwards of $100 for large dogs. Spaying and neutering pets reduce the number of litters born, preventing unwanted animals having to be put down later in life. This fund contributes to city and country animal shelters where licensed veterinarians provide services for pets of low-income owners.
Youth Character Organization: Technically, donations to this fund can go to any youth organization whose mission it is to build character, teach citizenship and develop personal fitness. However, currently only the Girl Scouts of Utah have qualified to receive these funds. The latest annual report from the Girl Scouts of Utah shows a total annual revenue of $5 million. Could there possibly be other youth organizations deserving of your money?
Youth Development Organization: Similar to the previous item, this fund contributes to youth organizations with more than 180,000 members within the state whose mission promotes character building, etc. Currently only various local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America qualify. The 2013 budget report for the organization’s Great Salt Lake Council alone showed annual revenue at $8.7 million, much of which came from “camping revenue” and assets.
BEST BET: CATALYST recommends Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust
Named after a local advocate for homeless and low-income Utahns, this program, which is part of Utah’s 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, is funded exclusively through voluntary contributions on Utah tax forms. Funds are used for programs that offer: temporary shelters, transitional housing, case management, placement in meaningful employment, outreach and day centers with special attention for homeless families with children, the disabled and mentally ill.