More Voluntary Check-Offs Vie for Space on State Tax Forms

Californians feeling generous on April 15 could kick in for other causes besides sea otters under bills awaiting action by Gov. Jerry Brown adding voluntary check-offs to state tax forms.

On September 1, the Democratic governor signed a bill extending the stay of the Sea Otter Fund on Page Three of the Franchise Tax Board’s Form 540 until 2016. (The 2011 540 is still not available.)

Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat, hopes Brown does the same thing with the State Children’s Trust Fund for the Prevention of Child Abuse and the Rare and Endangered Specifies Preservation Program.

Simitian’s legislation, SB 164, would extend the expiration dates for those two check-offs from January 1, 2013 to January 1, 2018.

Brown’s signature on Simitian’s bill isn’t necessarily ideal news for some of the other tax check-off promoters in the Legislature.

Their causes must wait until a vacancy opens on the check-off list because the limit is 15 on the form.

Twelve of the 15 current check-offs must meet minimum annual contribution levels to keep their place.

The three that don’t: the California Seniors Special Fund, the California Firefighters’ Memorial Fund and the California Peace Officer Memorial Foundation Fund.

All but one check-off – the Seniors Special Fund – have expiration dates.

This year, four new check-offs appeared on the tax form after a like number expired or failed to meet the annual minimum.

The new ones benefit the California Arts Council, the California Police Activities League, California Veterans Homes and publicizing the ability of new parents to safely surrender unwanted infants.

Amounts contributed to current check-offs and a list of those that have expired or been repealed is maintained by the tax board.

The Sea Otter Fund must receive contributions totaling more than $260,890 to stay on the form.

This year, Sen. Juan Vargas, a San Diego Democrat, sought to re-establish the ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease Fund, which fell from the form in 2010 because it garnered only $114,000 – $136,000 less than the $250,000 minimum needed to keep its place.

Vargas’ measure is stuck in committee.

Awaiting action by Brown are two check-off bills that, if signed, must wait their turn.

One would allow Californians to contribute to the Child Victims of Human Trafficking Fund. Money would be used for grants to local groups that help sexually exploited minors.

Another would restore the Municipal Shelter Spay-Neuter Fund check-off, which was removed from the tax form because it was $56,000 below its 2010 $250,000 minimum.

The spay-neuter bill – AB 564 by Assemblyman Cameron Smythe, a Santa Clarita Republican – also proposes a bit of social engineering, saying:

“It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage all persons who prepare state income tax returns, including tax preparers, to inform their clients in writing,

prior to the completion of any state income tax return, that they may make a contribution to any voluntary contribution check-off on the state income tax return if they so choose.” (Emphasis added.)

Emblematic of the state’s ongoing fiscal woes, one GOP senator proposed a new “Help Our State” check-off in which contributions would flow into the state’s cash-starved general fund.

The measure remains on the Senate floor.


1 Comment »

  1. And all this time I thought Check-off was an officer at the helm of the Starship Enterprise…live and learn.

    Comment by Let It Bleed — 9.15.2011 @ 7:33 am

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