ALBANY, Ga. -- In the final hours of this year's session of the Georgia General Assembly, legislators late last week approved a bill (HB 283) to increase the amount of state income tax credits that are available to taxpayers for contributions made to student scholarship organizations.
The three highlights of the bill are the increase in the annual cap to $58 million (from $51.5 million in 2012), the inclusion and higher contribution limit for individuals associated with LLCs and S corporations, and measures to increase the transparency and accountability of the Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO).
"This important legislation is the best of both worlds in that it provides more transparency and accountability and, by raising the cap, more scholarships for deserving children," said Lisa Kelly, President of the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program.
SSOs use the contributions to provide scholarships to students who are seeking to transfer from K-12 public schools to the private schools. The cap increase was also linked to important improvements in the transparency and accountability of the popular tuition tax credit program.
Presently, individuals can contribute up to $2,500 each year and receive a corresponding Georgia income tax credit. Corporations can receive a tax credit for their contributions up to a maximum amount of 75% of the Georgia income tax liability.
A new provision permits owners of interests in so-called "pass-through" entities, such as partnerships, "S" corporations, and limited liability companies, to receive a tax credit for up to $10,000 of their contributions.
"Deerfield-Windsor School is delighted with the legislature's passage of HB 283," Headmaster Dave Davies said. "By increasing the annual cap on the program, private schools will be able to help more Georgia students and families who believe that a private school is the best option for their education. In addition, the measures to increase transparency and accountability of all of the Student Scholarship Organizations statewide will eliminate practices of some of those organizations that operate in the shadows and on the boundaries of ethics.
"Deerfield-Windsor School has been affiliated solely with the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program since 2009. GOAL has been the model of ethical behavior, performing an annual audit, drawing less than their state-allowed percentage for administrative fees, publishing an annual report, and working closely with the legislature to close loopholes in the current law and practices."
Sherwood Christian Academy Headmaster Glenn Schultz was also pleased with the bill's passage.
"The raising of the cap by the Georgia legislature will have a significant impact on families desiring greater choice in their children's education," Schultz said. "By raising the cap, more taxpayers will have the opportunity to re-direct some of their state tax dollars and help young people receive a quality education through private schools who would not otherwise be able to afford it. With the existing cap on tax dollars that can be directed toward schools like Sherwood Christian Academy many tax payers were unable to participate in this program. This limited the monies we had available to provide financial assistance to qualified families."