How you can help make the world a better place, at no cost to you!
The end is nigh! The end of the year, at least, although some of you out there might be thinking it's also the end of the world as we know it.
However you want to look at it, if you're thinking about making an end-of-the-year, spirit-of-the-season contribution to a local nonprofit while getting a tax benefit, this is the time. (Though, thanks to a change in the law, you actually have until April 15, 2017, to make a 2016 contribution, but go ahead and do it now to get it out of the way, why don't you?)
Let's face it, nonprofits that help people at the bottom of the ol' economic ladder are likely to need more help in the coming years if House Speaker Paul Ryan manages to get his "Better Way" plan signed into law.
In the state of Arizona, you can take advantage of a charitable tax credit that doesn't actually cost you anything at all, as long as you owe at least $400 in state income taxes. That number, incidentally, has doubled since last year, so you can make a big impact with your contribution.
Here's how it works: You give up to $400 (or $800 for a married couple filing jointly) to a charity that aids the working poor. Then you get the money back next year when you file your taxes. It's a way of directing some of your taxes directly to the nonprofits that help those in need. Hey, why should big corporations get all the tax breaks?
Here are some of our favorite eligible nonprofits:
• The Community Food Bank serves struggling families in Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham and Greenlee counties.
If you make your donation now, you'll get your money back via the tax credit and your contribution will effectively be doubled, since right now, every donation the food bank received gets a matching dollar thanks to the generosity of Jim and Sandy Peebles, the Chen/Chow Fund and the Jim Click Family Foundation.
Besides cash donations, the food bank takes in nonperishable foods at collection points all over town. If you ever feel like volunteering, you can sort and pack food boxes. The organization can always use peanut butter, low sugar cereal and canned goods. And the staff has recently started teaching gardening workshops so folks can grow their own food and be less dependent on the kindness of strangers.
Call 622-0525 for details on donating, or visit communityfoodbank.com.
• The Primavera Foundation helps out individuals and families who don't have a roof over their heads or need work. The organization runs emergency shelters, provides rent assistance to keep people from becoming homeless, and runs employment training and day-labor programs to help people have a little money in their pocket.
To make a contribution to Primavera, call 623-5111 or go online to www.primavera.org. Drop off toiletries and food Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 151 W. 40th Street.
• Another worthy organization if you want to help the homeless: Habitat for Humanity continues to build homes for low-income families. You can make a contribution by calling 326-1217.
• Help out teens who are living on the edge with a contribution to Youth on Their Own, which helps out students in Pima County schools who can no longer live with their parents for a variety of reasons, including sexual or physical abuse in the home. Make a donation by calling Youth on Their Own at 293-1136.
• If you want to help victims of domestic violence, you should consider Emerge!, a nonprofit that offers shelter, counseling and other aid for people who are abused by their partners. You can call about making a donation: 795-8001.
• The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (sacasa.org) helps rape victims get back on their feet and runs programs to prevent rape in the first place.
• The Educational Enrichment Foundation helps out Tucson Unified School District schools. Given the way the state of Arizona funds schools, a contribution can go a long way towards preserving arts, sports and other programs that encourage kids to stay in school.
You can find a complete list of eligible agencies and more details about the working-poor tax credit at https://www.azdor.gov/TaxCredits/QualifyingCharitableOrganizations.aspx
In addition to the charitable tax credit, you can also give $200 (or $400 per couple) to a public or charter school and get the money back on your taxes, so consider that as well.
And, of course, there are a few nonprofits out there that don't qualify for the tax credit, but we think you ought to consider a contribution to them as well, because they make this town a better place (and you still get a tax deduction—just not a dollar-for-dollar credit):
• The Rialto Theatre Foundation has been growing ever stronger each year, with more shows than ever and the opening of the adjacent R Bar. Help them keep rocking in what's left of the free world. Call 740-1000 or visit rialtotheatre.com to become a member and get discounts and early access to tickets (which helped us out a lot when we were scoring tix to that Elvis Costello show last year), cheaper drinks and more.
• The Loft Cinema continues to be the most dynamic independent theater in the state. On the agenda in 2017: A major rehabilitation of the main auditorium, including the replacement of all the seats with modern, comfy chairs and more aisle space. Did you realize those seats are about a half-century old? You're gonna love it—plopping your butt in the now comfy chairs. Support them with a membership that includes discounted tickets, monthly free screenngs and, of course, free popcorn. Details: 322-LOFT or loftcinema.com.
• KXCI FM 91.3 Community Radio continues to be an oasis of independence on Tucson's FM dial. Where else are you going to hear unique shows like Al Perry's Clambake, Kidd Squidd's Mystery Jukebox and, yes, Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel? Become a KXCI member and get a T-shirt, CD or other swag. Details at 623-1000 or KXCI.org.
• The scrappy Tucson Sentinel continues to be a great independent news source for Tucson. That kind of work ain't easy. Give editor and publisher Dylan Smith a hand with a little scratch via a year-end donation by visiting Tucsonsentinel.com.