SALT LAKE CITY — Utah taxpayers donated twice as much to fight homelessness than to support education and seem to have a soft spot for body armor for police dogs, according to the most recent report examining donations on tax returns in 2015.
With Tax Day approaching, Utah residents have their annual opportunity to make donations to charitable organizations when they send in their tax returns. But if the past 25 years are any indication, the state may see a decrease in these donations.
Overall, there has been a clear downward trend in the amount of money Utahns have donated through their tax returns. In 1990, residents contributed about $450,000, but by 2015 that amount had decreased to about $191,000.
These numbers could be influenced by a variety of factors, including the economy and how well the charitable organizations spread awareness about the donation opportunity, said Charlie Roberts, spokesman for the Utah State Tax Commission.
There is also a wide array of charitable organizations that people can donate to these days, Roberts said.
"These are just a small sampling of the number of charities that are available," he said.
Some people may simply not know that they can donate this way, said Billy Hesterman of the Utah Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog group.
"I don't think that this section is maybe highlighted well enough in the state income tax portion for people to know, 'Hey, I can actually give more to the state education fund or I can give more to certain school districts,'" he said.
About 9,200 taxpayers made a donation in their 2015 tax returns, and the average donation was about $21.
Of the eight donation categories, taxpayers donated the most money to fight homelessness, contributing about $70,000, while handing off about $35,000 for education.
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Hesterman said that could have a lot to do with the fact that all of Utah's income tax is already slated to go to education, so taxpayers may want to diversify their contributions. But it could also simply be because there tends to be more information advertised about the opportunity to donate to fight homelessness.
State residents also contributed about $15,000 for body armor meant to protect police service dogs from bullets, which was less than the nearly $28,000 donated for spaying and neutering.