Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


Rats, Choice and Credits

02-16-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

This seems to fit right in with the Year of the Rat theme. The AZ Department of Education released the names and personal information of 7,000 AZ families who use Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program is an account administered by The Arizona Department of Education that is funded by state tax dollars to provide educational options for qualified Arizona students. This also allows parents to choose from a variety of alternative educational services including private schools and home-schooling to fit the special educational needs of their child.

The information that was released included the account balances, the names and email addresses and the grade in which the student is enrolled and special needs students had their disabilities listed. To make matters worse the information was released to an organization called Save Our Schools, that opposes the scholarships and school choice in general. That’s not all. The AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has publicly stated her opposition to ESA’s, making the release of the information to an anti-school choice group all the more disturbing. The Education Department, claimed, “oops, sorry” an honest mistake. But I can’t help smelling a rat.

In the meantime, the AZ Attorney General asked the US Attorney to investigate since the breach is probably a violation of Federal Privacy Laws. I won’t hold my breath. It seems that all too often the unelected bureaucrats who are responsible to implement duly enacted laws undermine those same laws when they don’t agree with them. It seems we’ve been down this block a lot lately.

Arizona has greatly benefited, or I should say Arizona’s children by expanding school choice both through the use of the ESA’s, and the AZ Tuition Tax Credit for Individuals and Businesses. So I was glad to hear the President at the State of the Union Address announce plans for expanding School Choice even more by allowing for an Educational Tax Credit on the Federal Level. Right now, there are only 18 states that offer an Educational Tax Credit similar to the one we have in AZ so this would help not only our students in AZ but throughout the US.

Of course, having the Tax Credit available is one thing but using it is another thing. Let me say using it is simple and easy. Last year, after completing my Federal Income Taxes, using the AZ Income Tax fillable form on-line it took me all of seven minutes to complete my AZ Income Taxes including the Tax Credit for Private Schools. The way to go about this is to donate first to a qualified Student Tuition Organization (STO) such as Catholic Education Arizona, www.catholiceducationarizona.org, and then on the Tax Form 1040 (long or short Form 1040) enter the amount and the form calculates the rest for you and populates the information in the required attachments. (You can also claim the donation on your Federal Taxes if you itemize.)

In Arizona you can donate until April 15, 2020 to claim the credit on your 2019 Income Taxes. This year the maximum amounts you can claim for the Tax Credit (Form 323 and Form 348 combined*) are: $1,135 for single !lers and $,2269 for married couples !ling jointly. And remember you can donate any amount less than the maximum if your AZ income tax is less than the maximum. One more reminder: a Tax Credit is not a Tax deduction. If you donate $1,135 to the CEA you get $1,135 deducted from your AZ taxes or if you have already paid your taxes via payroll deductions you receive a $1,135 refund. (A Tax Deduction only allows you to deduct a certain percentage of a charitable donation.)

Also remember that you can split up your AZ tax liability by donating to Private Schools, Charter and Public Schools as well as organizations that work with the poor or disadvantaged such as St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities and Prolife Pregnancy Centers. And yes, I know that taxes are confusing so just ask your Tax Preparer about the Tax Credits or call us and we will gladly explain how it works and how you can participate.

The Tax Credits allow you to direct what you want your taxes to fund. And that is the power of Choice.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS: A business that is an S-Corp can donate 100% of its AZ state corporate tax liability. Corporations can donate to any Student Tuition Organization such as CEA with a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $15million+. Contact Catholic Education Arizona for details.

*The original Individual Tax Credit was enacted in 1998 (Form 323) and a second tax credit was enacted in 2012 (Form 348) but they have been kept separate. So, you have to first donate the max on Form 323 and then if you still have tax liability left you can donate the remainder on Form 348. Just visit: www.azdor.gov/tax-credits/credits-contributions-certified-school-tuition-organizations for details. It’s not as confusing as it sounds.

BACK TO LIST