Individuals and companies can get an income-tax credit while making a donation that helps fund scholarships to private schools. They can't use the scholarships for their own children's benefit, but they can designate which school gets the funds.
So far, the Department of Revenue has approved $11.6 million on credits, leaving $38.4 million available before reaching the $50 million cap placed on the program when enacted last year. In the first year, $6 million went to provide scholarships for about 1,200 kids.
It's not surprising the cap hasn't been reached, according to Lisa Kelly, the executive director of the Georgia Greater Opportunities for Access to Learning, one of the student-scholarship organizations set up to process donations. "The increases in the contribution activity has begun in the fourth quarter," she said. "It's understandable that anything that has a tax consequence, (donors) are going to want to do late in the year."
Westminster Schools of Augusta is among several private schools that have encouraged patrons to take advantage of the Greater Opportunities for Access to Learning tax credit that allows for scholarship creation. The school received $60,000 for this school year from the program, offering funding to eight new students there. Erin Lively Kirchhoff, the director of marketing and communications at Westminster, said it looks as though even more funding could become available through GOAL for next school year.
She said the scholarship money comes at a good time.
"We allocated more of our budget for scholarships this year. And this (GOAL funding) is above and beyond what was allocated from our budget," she said.
Jack R. Hall, the head of school at Augusta Preparatory Day School, said his school has 12 students benefiting from GOAL this year, and officials are hoping to grow that for next year. He said many more donors have come forward this year, several being parents of former students.
"What I like about GOAL is that it serves students in financial need," he said, adding that after kindergarten those students who qualify for such scholarship funding must be in a public school and in need of financial help to move to a private school.
At St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, Principal Keith Darr said there has been a campaign for such funding.
"We have been encouraging our parishioners to participate in the program," he said, adding that the state tax credit program for Catholic private schools is similar in criteria to other private schools but is called the Georgia Residents Assisting Children's Education Scholars program.
The Saturday deadline isn't firm but a recommendation because of the two steps for using the credit. Donors must first get approval from the Revenue Department to make sure the cap hasn't been exceeded before making the contribution, and the department has 30 days to reply. The contribution must be made before Dec. 31.
Staff Writer Preston Sparks contributed to this report.
Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The amount of credit against Georgia income taxes owed is limited by a $50 million state cap and each taxpayer's maximum:
SINGLE INDIVIDUAL OR HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD: $1,000
MARRIED COUPLE FILING JOINTLY: $2,500
'C' CORPORATIONS: 75 percent of their tax liability
TO READ about the tax break for private schools, go to tinyurl.com/ygcffw9.