Keep the list small

Monday, May 7, 2007

According to records from the Iowa Department of Revenue, in 2005, 115,896 taxpayers donated $432,194 to the five checkoffs in the program then. That's down 10 percent in both dollars and number of donors from 2004.

There are six checkoffs this year on the Iowa income tax form. They support veterans, wildlife, the Iowa State Fair, an anti-litter hot line, the Iowa Fireman's Association and election campaigns.

The checkoff is a simple way to collect charitable donations but even if the total spending does not go down, there will likely be less for each organization when more organizations are on the list. Gerald Schnepf, executive director of Keep Iowa Beautiful, said the checkoff program may have reached a saturation point.

"It seems like there's an upper ceiling," he said. "If you add another organization into the formula, it just spreads it out thinner."

In a new study of state tax checkoffs, Ralph Tower, a professor of taxation at Wake Forest University, agreed with Schnepf that taxpayers may be fatigued by so many calls for their money.

"You have the same pie, but the slice gets smaller" as checkoffs pile on, he said.

The checkoffs found on Iowa's Form 1040 are:

* The Fish and Wildlife checkoff, which supports wildlife diversity.

* The Corn Dog checkoff, which supports building activities at the Iowa State Fair.

* Election Campaign, which funds state political parties.

* Keep Iowa Beautiful, which finances an anti-litter hot line and funds community cleanup efforts.

* Iowa Firemen's Association, which helps fund firefighter training.

* The Veterans Trust Fund, which assists veterans with job training, health care and counseling.

Subtracting an item from the list may be more difficult than adding one. We should leave it at six.