“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” –Thomas Jefferson
We all have our own unique story in this world, of where we came from, who we are now, and how we’ve grown to become the person we are. We’ve all had some help along the journey — from friends, family, teachers/mentors or even from strangers — and yet we can all conceive of ways we’d like to see the world improved. This weekend, let Brother Ali (featured once before here) remind you of this as he sings about his son,
Well, I’m about to share with you a way I’ve learned that a few of us — despite not being rich, powerful, influential or famous — can do something about it.
Imagine if you were simply given $50, and told that you can put that money towards any political candidate, party, campaign, or political action committee that you like, or you could do nothing, and simply lose the $50.
What would you do?
Believe it or not, this is the law in my state (Oregon), and most people do nothing, most likely because they don’t know they can. (Note: this is not a tax deduction, it’s a tax credit, meaning you get 100% of your donation back!)
Well, I’d like to change that, and see people get involved! Oregon is one of many states that has a state income tax, and if you earned more than a few thousand dollars, chances are you’ll have paid (or owe) at least $50 (or $100 for couples) for the year.
And if that’s the case, you can make a $50 donation (or $100 donation) to any local, state or federal candidate, party, campaign or PAC and get 100% of that money back on your tax return! Here’s the complete info, from the state of Oregon itself:
Oregon law allows a tax credit for political contributions.
Who can claim the credit? To qualify, you must have contributed money in the tax year you claim the credit. You must reduce the amount of your contribution by the fair market value (FMV) of any item(s) or service(s) you receive in exchange for your contribution. Contributions of goods or services do not qualify. Keep receipts from the candidate or organization with your tax records. You can use copies of canceled checks as your receipt.
How much is the credit? Your credit is equal to your contribution, but limited to $100 on a joint return or $50 on a single or separate return. The $3 check-off on the Oregon tax return does not qualify for this credit.
Partners or S corporation shareholders can claim a credit for their share of political contributions made by the partnership or S corporation. The contribution must meet the statutory requirements. The $50 and $100 limits apply individually to each partner’s or shareholder’s return.
No carryforward. The credit cannot be more than your tax liability for Oregon. Any credit not used this year is lost.
Which contributions qualify? Candidates and their principal campaign committees. You can claim a credit for a contribution to a candidate for federal, state, or local elective office, or to the candidate’s principal campaign committee. To qualify, at least one of the following must occur in Oregon the same calendar year you made your contribution:
- The candidate’s name must be listed on a primary, general, or special election ballot,
- A prospective petition of nomination must be filed by or for the candidate,
- A declaration of candidacy must be filed by or for the candidate,
- A certificate of nomination must be filed by or for the candidate,
- A designation of a principal campaign committee must be filed with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. Note: The designation must be made in each year a contribution is made to qualify under this provision.
Political action committees. You can claim a credit for contributions to political action committees (PACs). The organization must have certified the name of its political treasurer with the appropriate filing officer, usually the Secretary of State for statewide or regional elections, your county clerk for county elections, or your city recorder for city elections. PACs registered with the Federal Elections Commission may not be required to register in Oregon.
Political parties. Political parties can be national, state, or local committees of major political parties.
Oregon also allows a tax credit for contributions made to minor political parties that qualify under
state law. Contact the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office in Salem at 503-986-1518 to see if a particular party qualifies.
And if there are no candidates or parties that speak for you, there are plenty of good places to make this donation depending on what you’re passionate about, including the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon End Violence Against Women PAC, or any PAC registered with the Federal Elections Commission, and there’s a big list of them here. (Still no PAC for NASA, if you were wondering!)
The latest on this law is that it’s been renewed through the end of 2019, and anyone paying at least $50 ($100 for couples) is eligible for the political tax credit. Starting in 2014, the law changes so that only individuals making less than $100,000 (and couples making less than $200,000) are eligible.
But the vast majority of taxpayers that are eligible for this credit do nothing, and miss their chance to actually have a voice — however small — in the political process. Only about 100,000 tax filers claim this credit annually, out of a population of about 3.9 million. At its peak of popularity, only 7.8% of tax filers took advantage of this credit! In other words, nearly all of us could be making a difference, for free, if we simply chose to.
I initially thought this was unique to Oregon, but it turns out Ohio, Virginia and Arkansas (at least) also offer political tax credits! I’m not in any way endorsing any specific candidate, party or PAC, but I am endorsing that you get involved — and use your voice — if you can.
Feel free to leave your favorite recommendations in the comments below, and know that even though election season is long over, you still have until December 31st to make a difference!