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Tax-form gift boxes go empty
Charities: Fewer filers making donations
Lowest total raised in years, records show.

By Nolan Clay Modified: July 7, 2008 at 12:00 am •  Published: July 7, 2008
Oklahomans have been a lot less charitable with their income tax refunds lately.

Donations made through Oklahoma tax forms were down over the last 12 months, a reflection of a nationwide trend. Only $147,404 was raised off Oklahoma tax forms in the latest fiscal year, which ended last week. That's the lowest total in years, records show.

For 26 years, refund-getting tax filers have had the option of checking boxes on their state tax forms to make donations to state causes.

Those donating this way get smaller refunds but get to feel good about themselves.

Donations to some causes fell so low their checkoff boxes were removed from state tax forms. By law, a fund's checkoff box is dropped if donations from refunds fall under $15,000 three years in a row.

Two funds were dropped from the latest tax forms; seven more will not be on the next tax forms. Others likely will be removed in a year to two. One new fund — benefiting food banks — will be on the next tax forms.

More than $4.2 million has been raised overall through the program.

Almost half went to a fund for wildlife that pays for such things as research on Texas horned lizards and management of a bat cave, records show.

For the first few years, the wildlife fund was the only cause taxpayers could donate to through their tax returns.

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Which groups saw a drop-off?
•Donations to the wildlife program from tax refunds fell to $19,231 in the latest fiscal year. That's the lowest total for that program. The high was in the 1980s when taxpayers one year gave $213,840. The wildlife program was the only option that year.

•Donations from tax refunds to another long-standing fund also dropped last fiscal year to its lowest total. Only $14,369 was collected for a fund that helps provide medical and dental care for needy children and families.

•Donations from Oklahoma tax forms reached a high of $247,314 four years ago. Donations have dropped steadily each year since.

•Taxpayers gave $32,468 from their refunds to a fund benefiting the Oklahoma City bombing memorial the first year the fund's checkoff box was on tax forms. Donations dropped off so dramatically that its box was removed from the 2007 tax forms.

•Checkoff box donations to a fund to fight breast and cervical cancer last fiscal year totaled $20,224, a third of what was collected seven years ago.

Source: Tax Commission records


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