New Montana tax credits for public-school donations gone in six minutes

Credit for private schools created controversy
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Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 19:58:24-05

HELENA — It took less than six minutes on 2022’s first working day to max out an annual $1 million cap on Montana’s controversial new state income-tax credit for education donations – but, for public schools, rather than private-school students.

The tax credit of up to $200,000 per taxpayer, passed by the 2021 Montana Legislature’s Republican majority, garnered unified opposition from Democrats because it benefited donors to private-school scholarships.

But the bill also grants credits for those who give money to public schools for “innovative educational programs” – and, on Monday, 23 donors and the benefitting public schools took only five minutes and 35 seconds to sign up for the entirety of allowable $1 million in tax breaks, for the 2022 tax year.

The state Revenue Department said the donations are benefiting 10 schools in nine Montana cities and towns – including a $694,000 donation to Big Sky public schools.

That donor, or donors, will get the maximum $200,000 credit, the agency said – but their identify, like all individual tax information, is confidential.

Private-school students didn’t miss out on the first-day rush for the tax credits, either, although scholarship organization serving them have received far less, so far.

Revenue Department officials said as of Tuesday afternoon, about $161,000 in tax credits had been approved for donors to nonprofit scholarship organizations that help students attending private schools. These credits also have a maximum total amount for the year of $1 million.

Under the law, that cumulative maximum will increase to $2 million each, for the credits benefiting public and private schools.

Public school districts arranged donations in advance, and “registered” that donation with the Revenue Department – which then grants a receipt to the school district, which in turns provides that receipt to the donor. The donor then uses that receipt to claim the tax credit, which reduces one’s income-tax bill by that amount.

The Revenue Department said 20 individuals and three corporations are claiming the credit for their donations to public schools.

The other schools, and their donations for which taxpayers received a credit are:

Livingston Elementary schools: $73,000.

Kalispell High School: $70,000.

Montana City Elementary School: $55,000.

Shepherd Elementary School: $50,000.

Great Falls Elementary schools: $40,000.

Kalispell Elementary schools: $10,000.

Somers Elementary School: $5,000.

Whitefish Elementary schools: $2,000.

Bonner Elementary School: $1,000.