The giving season is here, and Oregonians have through Dec. 31 to take advantage of the state’s unique double-your-money system of donating to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations across Oregon. The state-run Cultural Tax Credit, administered by the Oregon Cultural Trust, was established by the Legislature in 2001 to help offset, at least in Oregon, a national gap in government support of arts and culture.
The program in essence allows Oregon taxpayers to give a donation to any of more than 1,500 approved nonprofit groups in the state, and match that amount with a donation to the Cultural Trust. Come tax time, the Trust donation returns to the taxpayer’s pocket, not as a deduction on total income, but as a dollar-for-dollar rebate on taxes owed. If you give one group or a combination of groups $500, for instance, and then match that with a donation to the Trust, what you owe on your state taxes is reduced by $500 – meaning that you will have spent $500 but given $1,000 to arts and cultural groups.
Oregon remains the only state to have such a system. And although a small percentage of taxpayers take advantage of it, the effect on the state’s cultural health is significant, helping to support and in some cases keep alive organizations in every corner of Oregon. The Trust tax credit also encourages taxpayers to donate directly to cultural groups. In fiscal year 2021, Oregonians donated a record $5.5 million to the Cultural Trust, in spite of pandemic disruptions. In fiscal 2022 they upped it to $5.7 million.
The benefits spread wide, to all sorts of groups, from museums and symphonic orchestras to theater and dance companies, to cultural centers and historical sites, to tribal programs, to libraries, to groups highlighting and supporting work by artists from immigrant and underrepresented communities. It goes to cities and to groups serving large rural areas.
It also supports arts and cultural journalism: Oregon ArtsWatch, a nonprofit online news source that relies on grants and donations to fund its work, is one of the approved organizations for the Trust match. ArtsWatch has no paywall: Our stories are available free for anyone, anywhere, who wants to read them, and it’s donations that make that broad availability possible. If you’d like to help keep our stories coming, you can make your gift here.
The program has rules and limits, as the Trust explains: “The ORS for Trust for Cultural Development Account contributions is 315.675. Subsection (5)(a) specifically states the credit may be up to $1,000 for a taxpayer filing a joint return or $500 for a taxpayer filing any other type of return. In addition, Oregon Publication 17 has a section explaining the Oregon Cultural Trust Contributions. Taxpayers may get a credit of up to 100 percent of the amount of the matching contribution, to a maximum credit of $500 per taxpayer ($1,000 on jointly filed returns).”
And if you can, now is the time to give. Happy holidays.