Give a donation, get a credit

If you made a donation this year to a cultural organization in the Rogue Valley or anywhere in Oregon, and you could double your contribution at no cost to you, would you do it? Of course you would.

The good news is, you can — but you have to do it by Dec. 31.

The Oregon Cultural Trust, created by the Legislature in 2002, gives grants to cultural organizations ranging from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to local historical societies. Just this week, the Jackson County coalition responsible for distributing money from the trust gave out 11 grants totaling $18,000. The county coalition still has $8,000 to distribute from its $26,000 allocation this year.

County coalitions, along with Oregon's nine recognized Indian tribes, get one-third of the trust's expenditures each year. Another third goes to statewide groups including the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Council for the Humanities and the Oregon Historical Society, and one-third funds competitive development grants to major organizations such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Britt Festivals and the Ashland Indpendent Film Festival.

Funding for the trust comes from donations from Oregon residents who receive a tax credit in return equal to the amount they contribute.

But first, you have to make a donation directly to a qualifying organization. Then, you make an equal gift to the trust. At tax time, you get a credit against your Oregon personal income taxes equal to the amount you gave to the trust. Of course, you still get to deduct your original gift on your federal tax return, if you itemize deductions.

If you're not sure what organizations qualify, visit the Oregon Cultural Trust Web site, You can search for your favorite organization, or download the full list of 1,200 organizations.

You might be surprised to learn that you've already given to a qualified group this year. Your local Friends of the Library group qualifies. So do educational foundations, including the Southern Oregon University Foundation. So does the Southern Oregon Historical Society, along with its smaller affiliates. So do local performing arts groups such as the Rogue Valley Chorale, the Siskiyou Singers, Oregon Stage Works and Camelot Theater Company.

If you made such a donation, you can make an equal gift to the Cultural Trust and get a tax credit of equal value, up to total of $500 per person or $1,000 for a couple filing jointly. And you don't have to file the long tax return form, because it's a credit, not a deduction, so you qualify even if you don't itemize.

So spread a little cultural cheer this season. It will make you feel good, and it won't end up costing you a cent. But you have to do it by Dec. 31.

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