My View: Help the arts by claiming state tax credit
I recently attended the August Wilson Red Door Project prerelease production of "Cop Out: Beyond Black, White & Blue," and experienced the power of theater to radically transform one's perceptions and beliefs.
At a critical intersection of art and social justice, empathy and compassion were able to replace anger, alienation and fear. In "Cop Out," theater was the catalyst toward our sense of shared humanity.
This kind of theater only happens with the financial support of donors, patrons, businesses and government. The production of "Cop Out" would not have been possible without a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust. The Cultural Trust quietly passed out over $3 million in grants to arts, heritage and humanities organizations in 2018. Additionally, they have set aside over $27 million in a permanent fund for future generations.
Although the Cultural Trust has been providing hundreds of project and organizational grants across the state for over 17 years, few people know about it, and fewer still apply for the state tax credit that funds it.
Many taxpayers already are making cultural donations (think of your media and museum memberships, library foundation gifts, and performing organizations statewide, for example), but only about 10 percent of these donors claim the tax credit on their Oregon tax returns, leaving a significant amount of money on the table that could be funding arts, heritage, preservation and the humanities.
In fiscal 2018, the Cultural Trust granted money to 137 cultural nonprofits across the state. Remarkably, the trust increased its new donors by 55 percent in 2018, so the word is getting out.
The tax credit math is simple. If an Oregonian donates $1 to a qualified Oregon arts, heritage or humanities nonprofit and matches $1 to the Oregon Cultural Trust, the state provides a $1 tax credit to the taxpayer. This results in $2 going to Oregon arts, heritage and culture for each $1 donated to a local nonprofit, at a $1 cost to the donor.
A list of over 1,400 qualified nonprofits can be found at www.culturaltrust.org. You also can make your gift through the charitable Give Guide at www.giveguide.org. The tax credit is capped at $500 for single filers, $1,000 for joint filers, and $2,500 for C corporations.
If you think you have donated to a nonprofit arts, heritage or humanities organization in 2018, you most likely qualify for the Cultural Trust tax credit. Unfortunately, it's not just checking a box on your tax return, indicating that you want your state taxes directed to arts, culture and heritage; but three simple steps accomplish the same thing:
Step 1: Donate to an arts, heritage or humanities nonprofit.
Step 2: Match that donation with a gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust.
Step 3: Fill in the Cultural Trust tax credit page on your state tax return.
It's that easy!
If all arts, heritage and humanities donors do this, our communities will overflow with a wealth even greater than money.