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Editorial: Too many options could make state tax form unwieldy

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 5:17 PM

Louisiana taxpayers will have a record number of donation options when they file their state taxes next year.

Taxpayers will have as many as 19 charities to choose from if they elect to donate a part or all of their tax refund. That’s seven more charities than were listed on the 2012 Louisiana State tax form.

This year, taxpayers could donate to the Military Family Assistance Fund; the Coastal Protection, Restoration Find; the Wildlife Trust Fund; the Louisiana Cancer Trust Fund; the Louisiana Animal Welfare Fund; the Multiple Sclerosis Fund; the Community Health Care Fund; the National Lung Cancer Partnership; the Louisiana Housing Trust Fund; the Louisiana Food Bank Association; the state Bicentennial Commission and Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Commission; and the Make-A-Wish Foundation for the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana.

The latter three funds were added for this year’s returns by state lawmakers.

Newcomers on the 2013 tax return will include the Louisiana Association of United Way’s 211 hotline for social service needs; the Odyssey Foundation for the Arts; the Louisiana Alliance for the Advancement of End of Life Care; the Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross; the New Opportunities Waiver Program for Treatment of the Handicapped; Friends of Palmetto State Park; and Dreams Come True, Inc.

A fund to help root out fraud and abuse in the state food stamp program is scheduled to appear on the 2014 returns.

Louisiana taxpayers donated more than $333,000 to various funds during the July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 fiscal year, one of the highest totals on record, since the tax donation program was started 31 years ago, according to Greg Albrecht, the chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office.

The top grossing fund during that time period was the Military Family Assistance Fund, which garnered more than $105,000. Other popular funds were the Coastal Protection, Restoration Fund with more than $72,000 in donations, the Wildlife Trust Fund at nearly $40,000, the Louisiana Cancer Trust Fund at more than $31,000 and the Louisiana Animal Welfare Fund at more than $30,000.

The funds for military aid, coastal restoration and wildlife have widespread appeal, according to Albrecht, while the cancer funds normally collect donations from individuals who have survived the malady or by their survivors.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Covington, said he doesn’t believe there are too many donation causes on the tax form.

Maybe not, but a fund dedicated to a state park could be likened to the proverbial lid being removed from a can of worms, since there are numerous other state parks that could utilize donations.

So, lawmakers must use some discretion here. Too many options will not only make the tax refund form unwieldy, it could also dilute the charitable donations.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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