For most people, preparing your taxes isn’t the most thrilling activity in the world. You could be spending precious moments with your family, or even losing yourself in YouTube videos of dogs trying to bark “I love you.” Even a Certified Public Accountant like me can sometimes get exasperated figuring out the complex tax laws. But there’s one easy check you can do this tax season that would benefit a charity of your choice.
California’s tax system has a program known as the Voluntary Contribution Funds (VCF). A voluntary contribution on your income tax return allows you to choose an amount on your tax return to give to charitable funds.
The first individual voluntary contribution check off box on California Income Tax Returns was created in 1982 and appeared on the 1983 tax year returns. From 1982 to 2015, these voluntary contributions to the nearly 50 legislatively enacted funds (there are 19 funds in 2017) have directed more than $110 million dollars to help protect endangered species, provide emergency food for families, support child abuse prevention programs, assist rape crisis centers to provide services, and other charitable causes.
If you’re interested in making a difference with a simple check of a box, take a look at the different funds. More information can be found online at the Franchise Tax Board’s website:
Alzheimer’s Disease/Related Disorders Fund: Your contribution will go directly towards research on diagnosing, treating, and preventing this illness, helping ensure that Alzheimer’s disease gets the attention it deserves.
California Breast Cancer Research Fund: Think Pink! Administered by the University of California, 95% of all contributions go directly towards research and education.
California Cancer Research Fund: Lead the charge against cancer! By giving money to the California Cancer Research Fund, researchers will receive vital resources to help them further understand and control this illness.
California Domestic Violence Victims Fund: Domestic violence thrives in silence and it's up to us to help break the cycle by speaking out and supporting services to help victims. Your donations could help domestic violence shelters keep their doors open.
California Firefighters’ Memorial Fund: Contributions will be used for the repair and maintenance of the California Firefighters' Memorial on the State Capitol grounds, ceremonies to honor the memory of fallen firefighters, and to assist surviving loved ones.
California Peace Officer Memorial Foundation Fund: Your contributions will help to assist the families of fallen peace officers, maintaining a memorial on the State Capitol grounds, and funds the annual ceremony at the State Capitol honoring fallen officers.
California Seniors Special Fund: If you and/or your spouse are 65 years of age or older as of December 31, 2015 and claim the Senior Exemption Credit on line 9, then you can contribute to The Area Agency on Aging Council of California (TACC) to provide advice and sponsorship of Senior citizens issues. Only taxpayers or spouses who claim the senior exemption credit on their California return may contribute to the Senior Special Fund.
Emergency Food for Families Fund: No individual or family should go hungry. Help feed California’s hungry by funding the purchase of much-needed food for delivery to food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens.
Keep Arts in Schools Fund: Funds will be used by the California Arts Council for the allocations of grants to individuals or organizations administering arts programs for students of all ages.
Prevention of Animal Homelessness and Cruelty Fund: Far too many animals are mistreated, abused, or simply abandoned by neglectful owners. Your donation will go directly to funding programs designed to prevent and eliminate animal homelessness and cruelty.
Protect Our Coasts and Oceans Fund: Here in California we’re known for our beautiful oceans and coastline, so do you part to help keep it that way! Your funds will provide grants to clean up shorelines, restore habitats, and much more.
Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program: Your contributions will help protect and conserve California’s many threatened and endangered species as well as the land they inhabit.
Revive the Salton Sea Fund: Even the largest lake in California can be helped with the smallest donation! Your contribution will help restore and maintain the Salton Sea, as well as to further develop public awareness of the plights it faces.
School Supplies for Homeless Children Fund: Your donations will help by giving valuable school supplies and health-related products to California homeless children.
Special Olympics Fund: The Special Olympics provides athletic opportunities to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, instilling the confidence they need to succeed in life.
State Children’s Trust Fund for the Prevention of Child Abuse: Your donations will be used to support child abuse prevention programs, public education efforts, and research to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
State Parks Protection Fund/Parks Pass Purchase: Protect our beautiful state parks, AND get an Annual Pass to our state parks! Your contributions will not only help the protection and preservation of California’s state parks, but if it exceeds a certain amount you can earn a Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass.
Type 1 Diabetes Research Fund: More than 30 million people in America live with some form of diabetes. Your contributions will be used for the University of California for the distribution of grants to authorized diabetes research organizations.
It’s critical to raise awareness about these voluntary contribution boxes because some of these funds must meet a minimum threshold. If the contributions by taxpayers do not exceed $250,000 (as adjusted for inflation) in any taxable year, the funds may be repealed and removed from the tax returns the following year. New legislation would be required to put the fund back on the return.
As you work on filing your taxes this season, give a few moments to think about these contributions. By simply checking a box, you can help any of these terrific organizations in the pursuit of their respective causes. Check and you’re done!