MY VIEW: Donate more to arts, lower your taxes
Our dependence on our families, workplaces and communities rests on trust. In a study conducted by the Trust Edge Leadership Institute, 83 percent of Americans believe that having a moral compass helps them be a person others can trust.
Far too often, we leave our soul in the parking lot, and rather than viewing our lives as an opportunity to bring more aliveness, greater happiness and ease into the world, we go through the motions of our day without being mindful of our larger purpose.
Arts and culture is my true north, and while public trust in the federal government and its institutions has fallen precipitously over the years, public trust in local arts and cultural organizations remains high.
Oregon is uniquely positioned to continue investing in this vital sector of the human and market economy through Oregon's innovative cultural tax credit program.
As unimaginable as it would be for you to not take an interest deduction on your home mortgage, the same is true for not claiming the tax credit on gifts made to cultural organizations. In fact, the Oregon Cultural Trust estimates that only 10 percent of cultural donors claim the tax credit on their Oregon returns — leaving a significant amount of money on the table that would be funding arts and culture around the state and stimulating local economic activity.
The tax credit math is simple. For every $1 donated to arts and culture, the state matches $1 donated to the Oregon Cultural Trust with a state tax credit. This results in $2 to culture at a less than $1 cost to the donor.
For example, assume a couple with a combined adjusted gross income of $150,000 makes gifts throughout the year to the Portland Jazz Festival, Portland Art Museum and OPB. Their cumulative gifts are valued at $1,000. The gifts provide a modest tax benefit in the form of a state and federal charitable tax deduction. If their combined marginal tax rate is 34 percent, the out-of-pocket cost of their combined gift ($1,000) is $660. The $340 savings washes out as a tax refund.
Fortunately, they read this opinion piece reminding them to match their gifts to the Cultural Trust. By leveraging the tax credit, they effectively double the federal charitable tax deduction available to them. Taking the dollar-for-dollar tax credit into account, the out-of-pocket cost of the combined gift ($2,000) is now only $410. They doubled their gift to culture and saved themselves $250 in the process.
Contributions to the Cultural Trust are easy to make and can be done online at: culturaltrust.org. The trust can accept appreciated stock as well as IRA distributions, which may provide additional tax benefits. The tax credit is limited to $500 for individual filers, $1,000 for joint filers and $2,500 for C-corporations.
Oregonians like you and me fund the Cultural Trust. The trust, in turn, funds the artists, educators, rappers, acrobats and dreamers who make Oregon Oregon. And 2017 promises to be the trust's best year, with nearly $5 million in contributions. In addition to funding its statewide partners, county coalitions and participating nonprofits, the trust has a $26 million permanent endowment that grows with every matching contribution made.
Only with your help will the Cultural Trust realize its ambitious goal of more than doubling participation in the tax credit program from 12,000 to 25,000 donors by 2021. Be more than your life narrative; fulfill your larger purpose of creating more aliveness, greater happiness and ease in the world by investing your time and money supporting arts and culture in Oregon. Double the love.
Mark Buser is chief investment officer of Johnstone Financial Advisors in Lake Oswego and has maximized his match to the Oregon Cultural Trust for more than a decade.