By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 9, 2014
ATLANTA—Leaders with Grace Scholars are working to clear hurdles for Georgia residents and businesses to redirect state tax dollars to the student scholarship organization. A new effort with a “one-stop shop” approach is kicking off in 2014, as the organization aims to encourage business owners and donors to support Catholic education.
In 2013, through November, nearly $3.2 million was contributed to Grace Scholars, said David Brown, the executive director of the program. The money helped more than 700 students afford a Catholic education. The median scholarship awarded is $1,225 per year.
A revision in the law allows so-called S corporations, mostly limited liability companies, to participate in the educational tax credit program. Brown said he especially wants Catholic owners of these corporations to participate. The law allows them to redirect up to $10,000 to a program like Grace Scholars.
The educational tax credit is growing in popularity. The window to redirect tax dollars seems to close earlier every year as more people take advantage of the program. Donors receive a credit against the state taxes they owe for the full amount directed to a student scholarship organization up to a limit determined by their tax filing status. The state’s cap on the program was hit in May in 2013 and would-be donors in 2014 may be left out if they delay past early spring. This year, the state dedicated a maximum of $58 million in available tax credits, with 36 student scholarship organizations all urging their supporters to claim a portion.
That’s why Brown and Grace Scholars set up the one-stop shop model.
It combines two steps into one. It replaces the old system, where the taxpayer sent a form to the Georgia Department of Revenue and waited for approval. Then the taxpayer would send the approval letter, a contribution form, and payment to Grace. The second step must be completed within 60 days of approval.
With the new system, both forms are directed to Grace, so it tracks the state approval letter and the 60-day period to make the donation.
“We believe we will be able to reduce greatly the number of expired tax credits,” Brown said.