April 15 is coming up fast, but there is still time to take advantage of the Arizona Tax Credits to maximize the impact of your taxes.

We all know that taxes are vital to a successful, thriving community. But it is frustrating to hand over a chunk of your paycheck with no real say in how that money will be spent.  

Every year the residents of Santa Cruz County send more than $13 million in income tax to Phoenix and see little return. On top of that, it seems that every time cuts need to be made there is a decision to take desperately needed funds from our most vulnerable citizens, our children. But thanks to an array of Arizona Tax Credits, we can choose where we spend our tax dollars and keep almost $8 million of that money working for us here in our community.

Better still, there is no out-of-pocket cost.

We are not asking for a contribution, we are asking that you choose to pay your Arizona state income taxes directly to organizations and schools in Santa Cruz County. We are asking that you choose to support the programs and activities that are so vital to our kids, like job training, sports and physical fitness, and music and arts, that are being slashed and cut at every turn.  

Tax credit contributions are a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability. It’s money that you already owe the State of Arizona. Everyone has a tax liability, it’s the percentage of your earnings you owe to the State. Tax credit contributions reduce that liability. If you were going to owe money to the Arizona Department of Revenue come tax season, your contribution will allow you to owe less. If you were going to get a refund, it will allow you to get a bigger refund.

There are three main tax credits – qualifying charitable organization, public schools and private school tuition organization – that everyone should take advantage of. You can contribute to all three. You can donate to:

1. A qualifying charitable organization. These have a maximum tax credit limit of $400 for those filing single and $800 for married couples filing jointly.

2. Public schools, which have a maximum tax credit limit of $200 for filing single and $400 for married filing jointly.

3. Private schools, which have a maximum of $1,107 for filing single and $2,213 for married filing jointly.

Qualifying charitable organizations in Santa Cruz County include the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County, Community Homes of Patagonia, Constructing Circles of Peace, Crossroads Nogales Mission and the Diabetes Prevention and Aid Fund (aka Borderlands Produce Rescue).

There’s also the East Santa Cruz County Community Food Bank, Family Health Care Amigos, Nogales Community Development, Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center, Santa Cruz Training Programs and Senior Citizens of Patagonia. For a complete list, see azdor.gov/tax-credits.

By contributing to all three types of tax credit organizations – charitable organizations, public schools and private schools – you have a direct link to your tax dollars. A married couple filing jointly can make the decision to direct up to $3,413 of their tax dollars to the children of our community through these tax credits and it will have a net cost to them of $0.

However, the impact it will have on the children and our community will multiply as the money is reinvested again and again in Santa Cruz County.

Our local qualifying charitable organizations and schools need you to choose to pay your income taxes locally. We are struggling to provide our kids with the resources and opportunities they need and deserve.

If you’d like to step up and take action, it’s not too late. Make your tax credit contribution by April 15, 2019.

(Barden is executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County.)

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