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Giving - A Special Section

Tax credits: Tzedakah at no cost to you

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I think most, if not all, of us are sick and tired of politics, the elections and seeing how much money is wasted on political ads, etc. While we generally have little or no control over how that money is spent, we actually do have a lot of control over how our state taxes are allocated.

Arizona allows us to instruct the state where to spend some or all of the state taxes we owe or have paid. While we might not be proud of how little Arizona spends in areas like education, they do offer our residents unique tax credits that allows us to direct where some or all of our taxes are spent. I hope you will take my suggestions below and help our local community and some of the programs you want to support.

As a taxpayer, board member of the Jewish Community Foundation and someone who cares deeply about supporting our Jewish community, I take advantage of using my tax credits to support several Jewish organizations. I take advantage of making donations to organizations I care about and 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 this year, a married Arizona taxpayer may direct up to $4,773 per year or $2,387 per single taxpayer at no 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 $2,973 of your tax dollars specifically to programs that help support our Jewish community, and it won’t cost you a dime!

Most of us love the concept of giving money to worthwhile organizations, and you can do a lot of giving this year by using your tax credits  – and this tzedakah that won’t cost you anything since you get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to the cap for each program.

Readers, this is simple. All you need to do is give money directly to those qualifying organizations and you receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction, not deduction of your taxes. I have written checks or charged on my credit card and earned miles: $4,773 this year to the qualifying organizations and I will get every single dollar back!

If you want to help the local Jewish community: Married taxpayers may give up to $2,173 to the Jewish Tuition Organization (JTO) or the Chabad Tuition Organization (CTO). These both provide private school tuition scholarships, which support Jewish day schools in the Valley. We can also give up to another $800 to Qualified Charitable Organizations (formerly called working poor). We have four organizations in our Jewish community that qualify for this program: Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Council for Jews with Special Needs, Jewish Free Loan and Kivel Campus of Care. All are worthy of our tax dollars and need this money to run worthwhile programs.

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 still 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 have their children get a Jewish day school education.

Here is the power of what we can do as a community. The greater Phoenix Jewish community estimates that we have about 100,000 Jews. Doing a little simple math, if we could get 20 percent to participate in the JTO program, and 20,000 of us directed an average of $1,000 of our state income tax dollars to the JTO, this Jewish community would raise $20 million toward all of our children’s Jewish education – and this would not 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. Please act now and take these credits before you forget about them and, like all good intentions, it gets sidelined and forgotten. Although some of these credits are available up until April 15, 2017, I strongly encourage readers to do it this year before Dec. 31.

The breakdown of the other tax credits for married tax payers is that you may also give up to $400 to a public school for extracurricular activities; another $400 to support veterans in the Arizona Military Family Relief Fund. You can also help support foster care by giving to a number of qualified organizations up to $1,000. If you are single, you can give half of each of those amounts.

Lee Eisinberg is a current board member of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix and a frequent contributor to the Jewish News. You can contact him at 602-565-7648 or eisinberg@cox.net.

For more information

For information on the Jewish organizations that can benefit from your tax dollars, visit jewishtaxcredit.org, which has information on each organization. For Chabad CTO, visit chabadaz.com.

Arizona Military Family relief fund: azdvs.gov/benefits/relief_fund.aspx

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