This may be counter-intuitive, but if you are a California tax filer, you can increase the pleasure of sending money to Sacramento by making a voluntary, tax-deductible, contribution for the California Arts Council with your tax return, which is due this year on Tuesday, April 17.
You will find a list of optional contributions, including the Arts Council Fund, which is coded "415" at Line 110 on the last page of your California tax form. Although your gift can be made in any amount, we recommend contributing at least $25 to the arts fund. You can add it to your state taxes and deduct it next year from your federal taxes for 2012.
California Sen. Curren Price, speaking at a California Arts Council event to launch the Million Plates Campaign in Los Angeles last week, warned the audience that if the minimum threshold of $250,000 is not reached this year, the voluntary arts contribution will be discontinued.
In 2011, when no minimum amount was required, 16,580 donors gave nearly $165,000 to the arts fund. Franchise Tax Board records reveal that, although more donors contributed in the first two months of this year compared to the same period a year ago (3,401 versus 3,297), this year's average gift has been lower ($7.59 versus $7.88). In order to reach the $250,000 threshold for 2012, we need to increase the number of contributors and the average amount, thus, our recommendation of at least $25 or more, if you can. Joint filers can double this suggested amount to $50 or more.
According to the Franchise Tax Board description, "Contributions will be used by the Arts Council to place teaching artists in California schools, revitalize rural and cash-strapped sections of California's economy using arts and cultural initiatives, support local communities through partnership with city and county arts councils, and assist statewide arts networks.
Are you concerned about administrative overhead? Accountability? The California Franchise Tax Board continues: "No portion of your contribution will be used for the Arts Council's overhead or administrative expenses. The Arts Council Fund will go directly to Arts Council programs. All Arts Councils programs are held to strict standards of transparency and are subjected to rigorous peer review panels."
California Lawyers for the Arts will honor Sen. Price, who chairs the legislative Joint Committee on the Arts, for initiating the voluntary arts contribution at our Artistic License Awards benefit event in Santa Monica on Sunday, April 29. This will be a great celebration, but the very best tribute we can bestow on Sen. Price is to make sure that this opportunity to increase arts support is not wasted.
Please let your family, friends and colleagues know that they can help our common cultural mission succeed by making a generous contribution to the Arts Council Fund with their state income tax return. It can only feel good.
Alma Robinson, Executive Director
California Lawyers for the Arts