The Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act (68 Okla. Stat. §2357.206) (“Scholarship Act”) allows individuals and businesses to receive Oklahoma state income tax credits for contributing to a scholarship granting organization (“SGO”) recognized by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The SGO then uses those contributions to provide scholarships for eligible students to attend a private school.
GO for Catholic Schools, Inc. (“GO”) is a scholarship granting organization that awards scholarships so that students with financial need can attend one of the twelve Catholic schools in the diocese of Tulsa. GO for Catholic Schools is an independent 501(c)(3) organization established to benefit Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Tulsa. The tax identification number for GO for Catholic Schools, Inc. is 45-5517541.
Tax credits directly reduce the taxes you pay on a dollar-for-dollar basis. An Oklahoma state income tax credit is like a gift card from the State of Oklahoma that you can use to pay your state income taxes. For example, with a $1,000 tax credit from the State of Oklahoma, you can pay $1,000 in state income taxes.
Tax deductions reduce the base of taxable income upon which you pay taxes, which translates into a reduction on the amount of taxes that you pay; however, the value of tax deductions depends upon a number of factors specific to each taxpayer, including your taxable income which determines your tax rate, whether you itemize deductions, the application of phase outs of certain deductions, and whether the alternative minimum tax applies to you.
Both tax credits and tax deductions help to minimize the overall taxes you pay, but tax credits are much more valuable because they directly reduce taxes dollar-for-dollar.
Individuals and legal business entities (corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships) can contribute to the GO for Catholic Schools Scholarship Fund and receive a state income tax credit from Oklahoma. Individuals can receive up to a $1,000 tax credit annually, married couples can receive up to a $2,000 tax credit annually, and legal business entities can receive up to a $100,000 tax credit annually.
The tax credit earned by contributing through GO is equal to a percentage of the amount you contribute, depending on whether you contribute for a single year or commit to contributing the same amount for two consecutive years. If you are willing to commit in writing to contribute the same amount for two consecutive years (e.g. 2017 and 2018), then the law grants you a tax credit of 75% of the amount contributed each year. If you only want to make a single year contribution, the tax credit is only 50% of the amount contributed.
Currently, the Scholarship Act provides $3.5 Million in annual tax credits for contributors to SGOs and $1.5 Million in annual tax credits for contributors to EIGOs (collectively, the “Annual Tax Credit Cap”). Any of the tax credits available to contributors to EIGOs that are not used each year will be used to benefit contributors to SGOs, and vice-versa. The Annual Tax Credit Cap automatically replenishes each year.
All SGOs are required to file a report with The Oklahoma Tax Commission in January of each year detailing contributions received during the prior calendar year. The Tax Commission calculates the total amount contributed to all SGOs for the just completed tax year and the total amount of tax credits earned by such contributions and publishes a report on its website by February 15 of each year. Link to OTC Annual Announcement.
If total tax credits earned from contributions to all SGOs in the State for that year exceed the available tax credits for the year, then a portion of the tax credit earned by each contributor to an SGO will be deferred or “suspended” by the Tax Commission on a pro-rata basis so as not to exceed the effective Annual Tax Credit Cap. NOTE: No tax credits are lost as a result of such deferral, rather the timing of the use of the tax credits by the taxpayer may be delayed.
If the Annual Tax Credit Cap was exceeded in one year, the Annual Tax Credit Cap for the following year will effectively be reduced by the amount of the suspended credits (the “Effective Annual Tax Credit Cap”).
Tax credits received from contributing through GO may be used in the immediately following year, to the extent that the Annual Tax Credit Cap is not exceeded. For example, tax credits earned by contributing through GO in 2018 (to the extent not deferred or suspended) may be used to offset income taxes on your 2018 Oklahoma tax return filed in 2019. In addition, any tax credit not used in a given tax year may be carried over for up to three years. The tax credit is not refundable. You must use it as an offset to Oklahoma income taxes.
Each student applying to a Catholic school in the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma that meets the statutory requirements is eligible to apply for a GO scholarship, which will be awarded to all students. Acceptance into the Catholic school is a prerequisite that must be met before a student will be considered for a GO scholarship. The only other criteria for receiving a scholarship from GO is the student’s demonstrated level of financial need for which GO will rely solely upon family household income and size of family as a proxy. Students with the highest level of financial need will receive larger scholarship awards.
Under the Scholarship Act, an eligible student may receive a scholarship worth up to 80% of the statewide annual average per-pupil expenditure as determined by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. For the 2017-2018 school year, that maximum scholarship amount was approximately $6,900. The actual scholarship amount will depend upon a number of factors, including the level of engagement of our Schools and their success in raising funds each year which determines the amount of money available for scholarships, the number of eligible students seeking financial assistance, and the level of financial need of the students.
GO will work with our Catholic Schools to meet their scholarship needs throughout the year so that our schools can be full and serving as many students and families as possible. However, the vast majority of GO scholarship funds will be awarded near the beginning of each academic year. By coordinating with each of our Catholic Schools, GO will notify scholarship recipients of award amounts by October 1 of each calendar year. Scholarship funds will be provided by check made payable to the scholarship recipient and delivered to the Catholic school where the student is enrolled.
The easiest way to contribute is through the contribution portal on the GO website: Contribute Now. You may pay by credit card or with a check.
You may also complete a handwritten contribution form if you prefer and send it with your check or credit card information to:
GO for Catholic Schools Scholarship Program
c/o Bishop Kelley High School
3905 South Hudson Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74135
Note: Contributions made by credit card incur a processing fee of approximately 3%. GO will absorb that processing fee. The gross amount contributed (including the processing fee) counts as your contribution for purposes of calculating both your state income tax credits and the amount of your charitable deduction.
Yes. You may designate a preference for up to 90% of your contributed funds to be used for scholarships at particular Catholic schools. GO will attempt to honor those requests, but may deviate if necessary to remain true to the primary mission of the organization, which is to provide scholarships to students most in need of financial assistance so they may attend a Catholic School, or to meet certain legal requirements. If you elect not to designate preferred schools, your entire contribution will go to the general scholarship fund for distribution to students at all of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma based upon where the financial need is greatest as determined by the GO Board.
No. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, GO cannot accept contributions designated for particular individuals.
Yes. The Scholarship Act requires that each SGO disburse at least 90% of the money it receives each calendar year in the form of scholarships for eligible students during the following academic year, with no more than 10% of contributions available to pay administrative costs. GO was developed in a manner to minimize administrative costs. In addition, a generous group of benefactors has agreed to cover all administrative costs associated with GO, so 100% of contributions received from people like you will go directly toward scholarships for students in our Catholic schools.
Contributions to GO are held either in a checking account at the Bank of Oklahoma designated solely for the purpose of GO for Catholic Schools, Inc. or in a reserve account at the Tulsa Community Foundation where funds can be conservatively invested to generate a return while waiting to be deployed to fund scholarships at our schools. All contributions to GO are deposited into the Bank of Oklahoma checking account and all scholarship payments are made from that same account.
Contributions to the GO for Catholic Schools Scholarship Fund received by December 31 will count as charitable contributions made during that calendar year for purposes of earning your state income tax credit from Oklahoma and your charitable tax deduction. The tax credit that you earn by contributing through GO in each calendar year may be used to offset your Oklahoma taxable income when you file your tax return for that year, subject to any deferral required as a result of exceeding the Annual Tax Credit Cap.
The amount of tax credits earned only depends on the amount of your contribution through GO, the category of contributor you are (single, married, or business), and whether you are willing to make a 2-year written contribution commitment to earn the 75% tax credit versus a 50% tax credit for a single year contribution.
The amount of the tax credit that you may claim by contributing through GO in 2018 will be determined by February 15 of 2019 and may be claimed when you file your tax return for 2018. Federal and state tax deductions for your charitable contribution to GO in 2018 may also be claimed when filing your 2018 tax return.
You can review the statute itself, Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act (68 Okla. Stat. §2357.206). The Oklahoma Tax Commission, which is responsible for carrying out the statute, is another good source of information (www.tax.ok.gov).