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Income Tax Checkoffs 

Table of Contents

Background

The Colorado individual income tax return form allows taxpayers to contribute to various listed organizations by donating a portion of their income tax refund or increasing the amount1 owed on their tax return.  Legislation is required to create a new income tax check-off.

Only 20 check-off programs can appear on the individual income tax form each year.  To ensure that the cap is not exceeded, the priority order system specifies that continued or renewed program take precedence over newly created programs.  Tax check-offs must contain a sunset date and meet a yearly minimum contribution of $50,000 by the third year from when it first appeared on the form and subsequent tax years to remain on the tax form.  Contributions are calculated from January 1st through September 30th of each tax year.  Thus, if a program that has appeared on the form is renewed or continued and has donations of at least $50,000, the program remains on the form in the following tax year.  The requirement for a sunset process has been removed for several programs.2  Two funds are not required to meet the $50,000 minimum, the Western Slope Military Veterans' Cemetery and the Donate to a Colorado Nonprofit Fund.

Newly created programs can only appear on the tax form when an existing program is removed.  The order of programs in the queue is determined by the date and time that the Governor signs each bill.  It should be noted that 17 voluntary contributions appeared on the 2020 Colorado individual income tax form.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the following checkoffs are available on the 2020 individual income tax form.

  1. Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Cash Fund;
  2. Colorado Domestic Abuse Program Fund;
  3. Homeless Prevention Activities Program Fund;
  4. Western Slope Military Veterans Cemetery Fund;
  5. Pet Overpopulation Fund;
  6. Military Family Relief Fund;
  7. American Red Cross Colorado Disaster Response, Readiness, and Preparedness Fund;
  8. Habitat for Humanity of Colorado Fund;
  9. Special Olympics of Colorado Fund;
  10. Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund;
  11. Alzheimer's Association Fund;
  12. Colorado Cancer Fund;
  13. Make-a-Wish Foundation of Colorado Fund;
  14. Unwanted Horse Fund;
  15. Urban Peak Housing Support Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness Fund;
  16. Young Americans Financial Education Fund; and
  17. Donate to Colorado Nonprofit Fund

State Comparisons

In 1977, the Colorado Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund became the first state income tax checkoff fund in the United States. Since, checkoffs have grown in popularity across states.  According to a 2003 survey by the Federation of Tax Administrators, 220 checkoff programs were identified across 41 states and the District of Columbia for tax year 2002.  By 2018, there were 421 programs according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The first national checkoff program was implemented in tax year 1972, when taxpayers were allowed to designate $1 of their income tax liability to a special presidential campaign fund.

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1Section 39-22-1001, C.R.S.
2Programs without a sunset clause include the Colorado Domestic Abuse program; Homeless Prevention Activities program; Special Olympics Colorado; Western Slope Military Veterans' Cemetery; Pet Overpopulation; American Red Cross Colorado Disaster Response, Readiness, and Preparedness; Habitat for Humanity of Colorado Fund; Donate to a Colorado Nonprofit Fund; Colorado Health Rivers Fund; Alzheimer's Association Fund; Military Family Relief Fund; Colorado Cancel Fund; Make-A-Wish Foundation of Colorado Fund; and the Unwanted Horse Fund. Section 39-22-1001 (1)(b), C.R.S.
 
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