It may seem very late in the game to make a final gift suggestion for 2007.
But we would like to offer an idea that will cost you, essentially, nothing: Make a contribution to a local non-profit, school foundation, arts organization or the Oregon Cultural Trust. These groups do significant things in the community. They deserve your financial and volunteer support through the entire year but a financial contribution to qualified non-profits by year-end will earn you a tax deduction, as well.
In fact, for anyone who already has donated this year to an arts or culture organization, there's a very good chance that you can make a contribution of similar size to the Oregon Cultural Trust by Dec. 31 and receive every dime of that amount back when you file your Oregon income taxes next year. This unusual opportunity to give and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit was made possible by the 2001 Oregon Legislature.
In addition to supporting fine arts, the Oregon Cultural Trust provides funding to library foundations, historical societies, music-education programs and interpretive museums.
In Washington County, for example, more than four dozen community-based organizations are eligible for Oregon Cultural Trust grant awards, including the Beaverton Arts Foundation, the Beaverton Education Foundation, Centro Cultural, Broadway Rose Theatre Company in Tigard, nearly every community's local library foundation, the Washington County Historical Society and Museum and many parent-school support organizations.
Culture, in other words, is hardly an exclusive concept.
This diversity is important because there is one prerequisite for receiving a tax credit when donating to the trust: You must already have made a donation of like or greater size to an arts or cultural organization approved by the trust.
But again, it's easy to find a group that qualifies.
Just having a membership to one of these attractions will qualify you for a tax credit if a portion of that membership fee is tax-deductible. The procedure for donating to the trust may sound complicated, but it's really not. Just go to the Oregon Cultural Trust Web site (www.culturaltrust.org) and look for an organization that you've already donated to, or one you'd like to donate to. Once you've written a check to the local arts or culture group, send a check - or make an online payment - to the cultural trust.
A year-end gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust, local school foundations and other community organizations will reduce your tax burden for the year. But more importantly, they directly invigorate the arts, local education programs, volunteer assistance and the culture scene very close to where you live, play and work.