As many Coloradans prepare to file their taxes — or reach out for professional help — one question on the state tax return offers a chance to give back to the community.
The Checkoff Colorado campaign is designed to raise awareness about an option allowing taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to charitable organizations when filing state income tax returns.
This year, a diverse group of Colorado nonprofit organizations is eligible to receive donations in the 12th annual campaign. More than $1.4 million was raised in 2013; individual donations averaged about $11. Taxpayers can choose from 15 nonprofits included on the 2013 Colorado 104 individual income tax form.
Checkoff Colorado spokesman Jon Pushkin said the amount of money raised throughout the state year to year remains pretty consistently between $1.5 and $2 million. About 6 percent of taxpayers choose to make a donation, he said.
“Ideally we’d love to see more taxpayers making donations,” he said. “It seems a lot of people aren’t aware of it, or just ignore it on the returns.”
The eligible nonprofits represent a wide range of causes providing programs and services to communities throughout the state. For Summit County, one nonprofit with a local impact is the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. With an office in the county, the organization offers support groups, a 24-hour help line for those in need and more.
Sara Spaulding, vice president of communications for the Colorado chapter, said the Checkoff campaign usually helps raise about $100,000 every year for the organization.
“It’s something positive you can feel good about when filling out your tax form,” she said. “You remain anonymous, and it’s one of the easiest ways to help us fundraise.”
In a survey conducted by Checkoff Colorado, participants said one of the most important factors in their charitable decisions is knowing that they’re giving to credible organizations.
“The dollars go directly to families and services we provide,” Spaulding said. “Because of this program we are able to provide those services to people at no cost.”
In 1977, Colorado became the first state to allow a taxpayer to “check off” a voluntary contribution to a charitable organization on the state income tax return. Today, nearly every state has a similar tax program. The Checkoff Colorado campaign began in 2003.
“You get to support a favorite charity and do something good for all of us,” Spaulding said. “That money makes a huge impact across the state.”
variety of programs
Make-A-Wish Colorado will grant wishes to kids living in Summit County. The group recently sent a child and family from Vail to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Colorado Cancer Coalition has statewide pediatric cancer care and young adult support programs headquartered in Winter Park. The Colorado Melanoma Foundation also is a statewide program. These and other cancer nonprofits are participating in Checkoff Colorado’s Cancer Fund.
Every organization participating in the campaign completed a rigorous review process and was approved by the Colorado General Assembly. They are listed as participants by state statute. After three years, an organization goes before the legislature for renewal; the total number of groups participating is capped at 15 for any given year, Pushkin said.
“We have six funds approved but on a waiting list,” he said. “Every year we review the funds, and usually every year there are a few new ones that switch out.”
Pushkin said he hopes Summit County residents, and Coloradans across the state, will take time this year to consider the difference the program can make as they file their taxes.
“You don’t have to be really rich to feel like you made a difference,” he said. “People give just a few dollars to a few organizations, and that matters.”