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Use tax credit, support the arts

by: submitted photo,

November is my favorite month of the year. I may be prejudiced since this was the month I was born; however there may be a few other reasons. We can all agree that the greatest feast of the year is on Thanksgiving Day. People even become more charitable, helping hundreds of thousands of others less fortunate have a Thanksgiving meal.

November even owns the rights to the cornucopia, the symbol of abundance, usually depicted as a curved goat's horn, filled to overflowing with fruit and grain, but could actually have been filled with whatever the owner wished.

What if we filled the horn of plenty with culture? 'The sum of the places and activities in our lives that define who we are … our heritage, our art, our parks and wilderness areas, our many festivals, all our rivers and the various other elements in our communities which we love and would not want to do without.' (Clackamas County Plan for Arts, Heritage and Humanities, Cultural Coalition Planning Committee, July 2004).

As a citizen, actively involved in Clackamas County tourism and cultural affairs, I am serving on the board of the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition. The coalition resulted from the creation of the Oregon Cultural Trust in 2002. The trust is a visionary plan, passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2001, to strengthen Oregon's arts, heritage and humanities.

Professionally, as a financial consultant, my job is to help people and businesses make prudent choices about how they save, protect, invest, spend and contribute money. Since 'culture' is everything in our communities we love and would not want to do without, everyone reading this has an interest in supporting some of over 1,000 cultural non profits in Oregon.

What if you could direct a portion of the state taxes you already pay to build a $200 million endowment to protect and stabilize Oregon's cultural treasures for generations? And, what if you could reduce the out of pocket cost on gifts that you already give to Oregon cultural nonprofits? You can accomplish both of these goals by taking advantage of the tax credit available to you through the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Let's assume that you are married and have combined earnings that place you in the 28 percent federal tax bracket and 9 percent state tax bracket. This year, through tax deductible memberships and donations to cultural nonprofits your combined contributions are $1,000. When you file your taxes, you will receive a federal and state tax deduction that reduces your tax bill by $370, leaving you with an out of pocket cost on your gifts to culture of $630. Not a bad deal …. but with the Oregon Cultural Trust tax credit it can be a whole lot better.

Keeping our assumptions the same as in the above example, let's take a look at the mutual benefit to Oregon culture and your pocketbook when you match your cultural contributions to the Oregon Cultural Trust. In the above example you make combined contributions, including memberships, to Oregon cultural nonprofits that total $1,000 for the year. By matching your gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust you can double your support for culture and significantly reduce your out of pocket cost. The tax savings that result from the charitable deduction of the $2,000 in gifts ($1,000 to your favorite cultural nonprofits and $1,000 matching gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust) will be $560. You will also receive a $1,000 dollar-for-dollar credit against your State taxes, netting you a $1,000 tax refund. Therefore, the out-of-pocket cost on your $2,000 gift is only $440. Based on this example, you would have doubled your gift to culture and reduced your out of pocket cost by $190. Please consult with your tax and/or legal professional for guidance on your specific situation. To learn more about the trust, or to donate, visit its Web site at www.culturaltrust.org.

Mark Buser is a West Linn resident who works in Lake Oswego.