While some aspects of our state government have improved, I generally have many misgivings about the way the tax dollars are allocated. Arizona does give me a gift every year, and I am more than happy to take it. I instruct Arizona where to spend some of the state taxes I owe or have paid. While I might cringe when I see Arizona’s low expenditures in areas like education, the state does offer residents a unique tax credit that allows us to control where some of our taxes are spent. I hope that some of you readers will take my suggestions below and Arizona’s ranking will improve.
As a taxpayer, board member of the Jewish Community Foundation and someone who cares deeply about our Jewish community, I take advantage of using my tax credits to support several Jewish organizations and, for these “donations,” it doesn’t cost me a dime; you can do the same thing. Each of you who owe or pay or paid Arizona state income taxes this year can allocate some of the tax dollars toward organizations you care about. In most cases, these Jewish organizations desperately need your help to survive.
Through the tax-credit program, an Arizona taxpayer may give up to $3,706 per married couple or $1,853 per single taxpayer this year at no out-of-pocket cost. You can direct your obligation of state taxes to a combination of public schools, private schools, the charitable tax credit, foster care and needy Arizona military families. If you are married, you can allocate up to $2,506 of your tax dollars specifically to programs that help support our Jewish community and it won’t cost you a dime!
I believe in tzedakah and giving money to worthwhile organizations, but this program doesn’t actually cost me anything since I get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to the cap for each program I help out. You can do this too by giving money directly to these organizations and getting a dollar-for-dollar reduction – not deduction – of your taxes. I have personally written checks or charged on my credit card, and earned miles, $3,706 this year to the qualifying organizations, and I will get every single dollar back.
Married taxpayers may give up to $2,106 for private school tuition scholarships through the Jewish Tuition Organization (JTO), which supports Jewish day schools in the Valley, and up to another $400 to qualified charitable organizations (through what was formerly known as the working poor tax credit) such as Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Jewish Free Loan or Kivel Campus of Care.
You may also give up to $400 to a public school for extracurricular activities; and another $400 to support veterans in the Arizona Military Family Relief Fund (as of this writing, this tax credit has met its 2014 cap of $1 million and is closed). Finally, we can now help support foster care by giving to a number of qualified organizations up to $400. If you are single, you can give half of each of those amounts.
The JTO tax credit remains one of the best-run education tax-credit programs in the entire state and gives away more than 90 percent of the money it raises, based on need. There are many young families in our community who can’t even afford to belong to a synagogue, but still want their children to be “raised Jewish.” Through the need-based JTO scholarships, they can now afford to give their children a Jewish day school education.
In a community that boasts about 100,000 Jews, if we could get 18 percent to participate in the JTO program, and 18,000 of us directed an average of $1,000 of our state income tax dollars to the JTO, this Jewish community would raise $18 million toward all of our children’s Jewish education; and it wouldn’t cost anyone a dime. Unfortunately, we normally collect a fraction of that amount, largely because people don’t understand how this tax-credit program works. You need to act now and take these credits because all of them expire for this tax year on Dec. 31 (except for the JTO tax credit, which allows us to pay for it up until our tax filing or April 15, 2015). You only have 11 days left, so act now!
For information, go online to Jewish Tuition Organization (jtophoenix.org), Jewish Family & Children’s Service
(jfcsaz.org), Kivel Campus of Care (kivel care.org), Jewish Free Loan (jewishfree loan.org), Chabad Tuition Organization (jewisheducationaz.com) and/or the Arizona Military Family Relief Fund (azdvs.gov/benefits/relief_fund.aspx), or contact me at 480-258-6098 or email@example.com with any questions.
Lee Eisinberg serves on the boards of the Jewish Community Foundation and Jewish National Fund Arizona.