I have been a regular contributor to local newspapers, urging readers to match their annual cultural gifts to the Oregon Cultural Trust and collecting an equivalent state tax refund when filing their state income taxes. Ironically, people are more familiar with the Cultural Trust license plates than the purpose for which the license plates are sold — namely, to fund promotion of the tax credit that sent $2.7 million to local arts, heritage and cultural organizations in 2019.
I challenge us to double that amount this year and make 2020 a double-coupon year for Cultural Trust grants. If you own a car with a Cultural Trust license plate and are not participating in the trust tax credit program, or if you have made gifts this year to any Oregon arts or cultural nonprofit and have not matched your gifts to the trust, then this is a call to action. If you already match your annual gifts to the trust, you are amazing and brilliant because you are designating a portion of your state taxes to support what you love.
Here is how to take advantage of Oregon's most generous offer, even more generous than the dime you get back for recycling your empty beverage containers: the state is offering you nothing less than the opportunity to direct your state taxes to fund arts and culture, but it's up to you to act on it.
To illustrate how the tax credit works, assume a married couple makes gifts of $1,000 throughout the year to qualified arts and cultural nonprofits (for a complete list, visit culturaltrust.org/get-involved/nonprofits/), then matches their gifts to the trust. They have now doubled their gifts to arts and culture from $1,000 to $2,000.
When they file their taxes, they will receive a $1,000 tax refund due to the tax treatment of the matching gift to the trust, referred to as a tax credit. You can apply for the tax credit when you file your 2019 taxes with your accountant, using TurboTax or printing Oregon tax forms.
Contributions to the Oregon Cultural Trust are easy to make and can be done online at culturaltrust.org. You must make your matching gift by Dec. 31.
The trust can accept appreciated stock as well as IRA distributions, which may provide additional tax benefits. For clients using donor-advised funds for their charitable gifts, their matching gift to the trust must come from an alternate source of funds to qualify for the tax credit. The tax credit is limited to $500 for individual filers, $1,000 for joint filers and $2,500 for C-corporations.
If you enjoy Oregon's arts and culture community, participating in the Oregon Cultural Trust tax credit program is the best way to give back by electing a portion of your state taxes to go to arts and culture. It's a win-win for everyone.
Mark Renard, chief investment officer of Johnstone Financial Advisors in Lake Oswego, is a board member of the Oregon Cultural Trust.
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