BOSTON (SHNS) – Each year when Massachusetts residents complete their income tax forms, they have the option of checking one or more of the six boxes and making a voluntary contribution to causes such as conservation of the wildlife and military family assistance.
But where that money is going, according to a senator, is not always clear.
Senator Michael Barrett, a Democrat from Lexington, introduced a bill that would add a new option for taxpayers to donate to a United Nations fund supporting developing countries vulnerable to climate change. But it also calls for a more regular review of the existing options taxpayers have for donating through their tax returns.
The Barrett Bill (S 1796) would add a seventh box to the tax form allowing residents to contribute to the United Nations Fund for Least Developed Countries to help poor countries in developing regions of the world respond to threats from climate change .
“It would be the first of its kind in the country,” Barrett said.
However, the senator’s bill would also require an annual report on how all voluntary contributions are distributed and require the auditor to review each program at least once every five years. For example, Barrett said his office tried to find out how money contributed to an Olympics fund to support Massachusetts athletes was distributed, but failed.
Other funds, he said, are channeled to state agencies like the Department of Public Health for HIV prevention and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for conservation efforts.
“These are not non-profit organizations,” Barrett said. “It bothers me a bit that four of the six are back door funding mechanisms for state agencies.”
The six boxes on the state income tax form allow contributions to support endangered wildlife conservation, organ transplants, a Massachusetts HIV public health fund and l hepatitis, a US Olympic fund from Massachusetts, aid to military families in Massachusetts and the prevention and care of homeless animals. .
Barrett said the homeless animal and military families fund tend to be the most popular options.
Representative Antonio Cabral, who tabled a version (H 2883) in the House, and Representative Christine Barber joined Barrett in testifying Wednesday in support of the bill, which they say received a favorable recommendation from the income commission during the last session.
Representative Adam Hinds, co-chair of the committee, thanked Barrett for bringing the matter to his attention, noting his local interest as Charlemont alpine skier Paula Moltzan prepares for the Winter Olympics in China.
“I’m going to make some noise about it,” Hinds said.
Barrett said that between 2012 and 2015, the number of tax filers who donated to the Olympic Athletes Fund increased from 9,062 to around 8,100, before rising to 8,800 in 2016, which was an Olympic year.
Its invoices and Cabral’s would set thresholds for the tax return to allow contributions to stay on forms, including the requirement that the option generate contributions totaling at least 80 percent of the average contribution at all times. options on the tax form in at least one of the previous five years.
The bills would also limit the options available to give no more than nine options and no less than three.
“The idea is to refresh the list so that people have the opportunity to donate to the causes that they think deserve the most attention,” Barrett said.
The income committee held a hearing Wednesday on 52 bills related to inheritance and personal income taxes, including Hind’s (S 1883) proposal to pilot a universal income program for 100 families that would operate local businesses , nonprofit organizations and foundations to provide participants with $ 1,000 per month and measure the impact on their lives.
“It’s a concept that I think is worth exploring,” said Hinds.
The committee also heard testimony on ways to reform the state’s estate tax and proposals to expand the size and scope of the state’s earned income tax credit to benefit more families.