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Projects benefit from Ohio tax program

2/13/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Option promoted to keep funding for history, nature

The Military Injury Relief Fund, Natural Areas and Preserves Fund, Ohio Historical Society Fund and Wildlife Diversity Fund are listed in section 27 on the Internal Revenue Service’s state 1040 form, shown above, or line 20B on the 1040EZ form.
Graphic courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society
COLUMBUS — Ohioans who are passionate about history, nature and supporting injured veterans are being asked to consider making a donation to support those areas through their state income tax return.

This year, efforts have been intensified to promote the state income tax “check-off” program after the Ohio General Assembly established a new threshold for tax check-off programs that must be met for the programs to continue to receive funding.

Amended House Bill 112 became effective in October, according to the Ohio General Assembly website. The law now makes any of the current four areas available for donations on the state income tax forms required to raise at least $150,000 annually in the next two years to remain one of the options.

“We need to generate at least $150,000 each year or the Ohio History tax check-off and the History Fund grant program that it supports could be jeopardized,” said Ohio Historical Society (OHS) Executive Director and CEO Burt Logan.

The OHS is listed along with the Wildlife Diversity Fund, the Natural Areas and Preserves Fund and the Military Injury Relief Fund in section 27 on the second page of the Internal Revenue Service’s state 1040 form, or line 20B on the 1040EZ form.

Those who are set to receive a refund can choose what fund they want to support and write in an amount of $1 or more to donate and it will be deducted from the refund. For those who owe taxes, the donation will be added to their tax bill.

The OHS and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are promoting the program so that they reach the goal established last year to keep the check-off program going.

Last year, the History Fund collected $137,153 from 15,890 Ohioans who contributed to the grant program through their state income tax returns, according to Logan. Money from the fund is then distributed to history and preservation groups in the state through a competitive grant program.

Last year, the average donation by individual taxpayers was $8, according to OHS officials.

The first round of grant recipients was announced nearly a year ago. According to Shannon Thomas, OHS communications specialist, the next round of grant winners will be announced on Statehood Day, which is Feb. 27.

Leianne Heppner, president and CEO of the Summit County Historical Society, said the Akron organization was one that applied for a grant this year. Heppner said the society is seeking help with funding improvements in artifact and collections care software and storage.

Heppner said she has been involved with the check-off program since its inception and believes it’s a worthy program. She also has been a participant herself and utilized the check-off to make a donation in recent years.

“It’s so important for individuals to know of the tax check-off opportunity, as it may get lost in all the small print,” Heppner said. “With taxpayers being aware of the option, they can easily decide on a donation amount $1 and up, or they can make sure to tell their accountant.”

ODNR Director James Zehringer said the tax check-off program is “an ideal opportunity for all of Ohio’s outdoor enthusiasts to support their natural resources.”

“All of the donations are utilized for preservation efforts of natural areas in the state and protecting endangered wildlife species,” he said.

With the funds received last year, the ODNR’s Division of Natural Areas and Preserves was able to hire seasonal staff to help control more than 35 different invasive species on more than 500 acres in 38 state nature preserves. Also, populations of wildlife species such as the Lake Erie watersnake, mountain madtom and osprey, as well as the endangered Rocky Mountain bulrush, all benefitted from the program in 2013.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services administers the Military Injury Relief Fund. The fund provides grants to individuals injured while in active service as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

More information on the check-off program is available at www.tax.ohio.gov. Look for question No. 38 in the Frequently Asked Questions for Individual Taxpayers.

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