The words “simplified,” “tax” and “form” are not often found in the same sentence; but a revision to the application for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program puts them together.
After persistent feedback by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and others about the cumbersome application process, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) simplified the tax credit form making it easier than ever for companies to receive a financial benefit in return for their support of education.
“Pennsylvania’s educational tax credit programs are unique. How often do taxpayers get to dictate where their dollars go to do the most good for the community?” said Sean McAleer, PCC education director. “Government should encourage people to participate in programs that benefit education, not make it difficult. Donors, scholarship organizations and especially students and parents are grateful for DCED’s responsiveness to our concerns.”
The new online application was condensed from seven to two simple pages and uses a step-by-step process. The new application also creates a more efficient review process for DCED staff. Business owners may complete the form online.
Announcing the improved application process, DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker stressed the administration’s support of the tax credit programs.
“The governor is committed to providing students with the best access to quality educational programs. By working with businesses we can provide a unique opportunity for students in low scoring schools to thrive,” Walker said.
Gov. Tom Corbett in 2012 signed into law the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, making $50 million in tax credits available to businesses that contribute to Opportunity Scholarship Organizations. Another $100 million was allocated to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
The OSTC program creates special scholarships particularly for low-income students in the lowest performing 15 percent of public schools. OSTC is modeled after the longstanding, highly successful EITC program that has helped tens of thousands of students to attend the school of their choice, including Catholic schools.
OSTC scholarships are reserved for students who live within the geographic boundary of one of the 15 percent lowest performing public schools. Families earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty line (or about $43,000 per year for a family of four) and families in certain financially distressed school districts are given a priority.
Scholarships may be awarded up to $8,500 ($15,000 for special education students), but may not to exceed actual tuition and fees.
Companies that do business in Pennsylvania and pay certain taxes may receive a tax credit for their contribution to a scholarship organization.
The tax credits awarded to businesses will be equal to 75 percent of their contribution amount, which can be increased to 90 percent if the business commits to the program for two years. Businesses may receive a maximum credit of $400,000.
EITC scholarships are available to students with a household income of $60,000 per year plus $12,000 per dependent. So a family of four making up to $84,000 per year may qualify for an EITC scholarship. These scholarships are available to all families, regardless of where they live.
Learn more about school choice at the website of the PCC.
A. B. Hill is communications director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at www.pacatholic.org, www.facebook.com/pacatholic, and www.twitter.com/pacatholic.