Oregon Should Keep AND TREASURE the Oregon Cultural Trust Tax Credit

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THE FACTS: In October the Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT) celebrated ten years of supporting the arts, heritage and humanities throughout Oregon. The effort has resulted in $25 million raised, over $11 million disbursed in grants to over 800 programs directly and an additional 1,900 projects through cultural coalitions throughout the state. The Trust has built an endowment of nearly $15.5 million, and has a goal of reaching $200 million to secure sustainable funding for Oregon’s future.

To generate the funding the Oregon legislature created the cultural trust tax credit and the culture license plate. The cultural trust tax credit is currently scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2014, and will be reviewed during the 2013 legislative session.

In light of this, the Oregon Cultural Advocacy Coalition via ECONorthwest conducted an analysis of the arts and culture community and prepared a report that describes the economic contributions of the cultural sector and assesses the efficiency of Oregon’s tax credit program that supports the Oregon Cultural Trust.

THE RESULTS:

In 2011, the Oregon Cultural Trust’s 1,326 eligible cultural nonprofits directly generated an estimated $580.5 million in sales, and employed 8,750 persons who received $272.8 million in income.

These direct contributions ripple through the economy. As such, the economic contributions of Oregon Cultural Trust eligible cultural nonprofits extend far beyond their own spending. Indeed, through additional supply-chain and consumption-driven spending, the total economic impacts associated with eligible cultural nonprofits amount to over $1.2 billion in sales, including almost $470 million in income and 14,900 jobs in 2011.

And to alleviate any misguided thoughts that the tax credit takes away from worthy health and safety programs this economic activity generated an estimated $57.2 million in tax and fee revenues for state and local governments.

Cultural grants have provided thousands of dollars creating jobs and value for Central Oregon arts and cultural non-profits over the past ten years.

THE TAX CREDIT:

By allowing donors to match a monetary gift to one of the 1,326 participating cultural non-profits with a gift to OCT, the donors get the match back via a credit to their state taxes. This means a $50 donation to the OCT and a matching $50 donation to any number of cultural nonprofits results in a $50 credit in taxes owed to the state for the Trust donation and the other $50 eligible for a charitable deduction off  state and federal taxes. Individuals can receive the tax credit up to $500, $1,000 for couples filing jointly and $2,500 for corporations.

Note: Hundreds of organizations in Central Oregon qualify to receive a gift in this manner including Arts Central, High Desert Museum, BendFilm, City Club of Central Oregon and the four-year university effort through Oregon State University Foundation.

The Oregon Legislature is organizing for 2013 and will be forming a tax credit committee or committees to take a look at all tax credits in the state. Tax credits are in effect tax expenditures, so the representatives will be prioritizing those in relation to other spending priorities. The governor has seen fit to recommend continuation of the Cultural tax credit.

The tax credit serves as a powerful advocate and investment of culture within our state, a culture that improves creativity, enhances education and promotes a quality and prosperous economy.  Legislators should vote next year to continue this uniquely Oregon program.

As the year comes to an end it’s essential to continue to support the Cultural Trust along with making a donation that essentially will cost you nothing.

www.culturaltrust.org, Cultural Advocacy Coalition: oregonculture.org.

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