Tax time go time for Allocate to Elevate participants

Homeowners Joyce and Don Metz visit with a volunteer at Serve the City on Feb. 6. GCU partners with Habitat for Humanity on home renovation projects in the Canyon Corridor -- projects funded by Allocate to Elevate.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Don and Joyce Metz have watched their neighborhood change immensely over the four decades they’ve lived at their west Phoenix home, just across the street from Alhambra High School and a little more than a mile from Grand Canyon University.

And they’ve seen the University transform, too, from a modest community college to what it is now – a sprawling University of 23,000 ground students with four- and five-story buildings rising promisingly over the landscape.

“Can we take a tour of the campus?” Joyce asked one of about a dozen GCU and Grand Canyon Education staff and student volunteers who were smoothing landscape rock over the Metzes’ front yard and planting mesquite trees on a recent Saturday morning. It was just one of five home renovations taking place simultaneously as part of Serve the City, when GCU and community partner Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona fan out at multiple homes in a one-day blitz to complete painting and landscaping projects.

The Metzes, who are turning 79 this year, said the project was too much for them to handle. The cost of the project was a barrier, too, and might not have been completed if not for the help of the GCU-Habitat partnership.

While the Metzes paid for a portion of their home improvement project – homeowners on average contribute about 33% of the cost, said GCU alumna Andrea Northup, Sponsor Relations Manager of Habitat for Humanity – the other part of the funding came from GCU workplace-giving program Allocate to Elevate.

Through Allocate to Elevate, GCU and GCE employees can re-route the tax dollars they normally would pay to the state, which goes to a general tax bucket, and direct them to more specific initiatives the University supports, such as Habitat for Humanity. They are telling the state where they want their tax dollars to go rather than to that general bucket.

Employees who participate then receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, meaning less of their income is taxed.

“Habitat just doesn’t come up with this money magically,” said Pat Veit, Construction Operations Manager for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona. “It’s the GCU staff that gives their tax credit dollars to Habitat that creates this pool of funds that we use as a subsidy to make up for what the homeowner can’t pay on the repairs to their house.”

With the volunteers and the Allocate to Elevate funding, “it’s truly from the top to the bottom of GCU – it’s a full team partnership with Habitat,” Veit said.

As the tax season begins – the Internal Revenue Service began accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns on Feb. 12 – it’s also time for GCU and Grand Canyon Education employees to take the next steps in the Allocate to Elevate process.

Sheila Jones

“We want our employees to feel supported every step of the way, from making the pledge to having what they need to properly complete their taxes,” said Sheila Jones, K12 Educational Development Program Director and the Allocate to Elevate coordinator. “Our employees can reach out to me anytime, and I will help them as quickly as possible, no matter what time of year it is.”

What Allocate to Elevate participants need to have at this time of year are tax receipt letters from the organizations to which they diverted their tax dollar, Jones said.

Those participating in the initiative, which supports not only Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona but also School Choice Arizona and public school extracurricular programs, should see those letters arrive by mail or email.

Habitat emailed the receipts in January, Jones said, and School Choice mailed them around the same time.

The receipts will verify the amount of tax dollars an employee designated to those initiatives and will be filed with an employee’s taxes.

For pledges to a Qualifying Charitable Organization, such as Habitat, individuals who choose married filing jointly receive an $800 maximum tax credit, and those who are single, heads of household or married but filing separately receive a $400 maximum tax credit.

For pledges to School Choice, the maximum credit is $593 for those who are single, heads of household or married filing separately and $1,186 for joint filers.

For pledges to public schools, the maximum credit is $400 for those married filing jointly or $200 for filers who are single, married filing separately or are heads of household.

If an employee hasn’t received their contribution letters, they should reach out to those organizations, or, “I can help employees with that,” said Jones.

Once employees receive the confirmation of what they’ve contributed, they will then fill out the appropriate tax forms when it’s time to file their taxes. That would be Arizona Form 321 for Habitat, Arizona Form 322 for the public school credit or Arizona Form 323 for School Choice Arizona.

Allocate to Elevate, funded through the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit and Public School Tax Credit, made its debut in 2013. The tax credits allow taxpayers to make charitable contributions and receive dollar-for-dollar reductions in their Arizona state tax liabilities.

Jones emphasized that employees’ paychecks aren’t affected by participating in Allocate to Elevate. Employees simply are telling the state how they want their tax money spent.

Allocate to Elevate allows GCU and GCE employees to divert their state taxes to one of three initiatives the University supports. All three align with its mission to transform the community:

  • Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona – The University is partnering with the organization to renovate homes in the Canyon Corridor. Since the initiative started in 2015, the GCU community has served more than 320 families and completed more than 800 home repairs thanks to students, faculty and staff contributing some 26,000 volunteer hours;
  • School Choice Arizona – GCU, as a Christian university, wants to support families who want to send their children to private Christian schools; and
  • Public School Extracurricular Programs – As an educational institution, the University supports public school education and programs, such as school trips or art or athletic programs, that might not happen if not for additional funding.

The first year of Allocate to Elevate, employees redirected $218,000 of their tax dollars to Habitat, School Choice and public schools.

This year, the pledge goal is a bold one -- $3.2 million.

Jones said it’s not too late to participate in the program and that it’s as easy as filling out a form.

“We’re 90% to our goal,” she said, and she knows employees will rally to make up that last 10% so that GCU can continue to help its neighbors, like the Metzes, and continue to transform the community.

“We are so blessed to have incredible staff who love to give back and support our community.”

***

To reach out to Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona: Call 602-268-9022 or email Amanda Hoffman.

To reach out to School Choice Arizona: Call 480-722-7502 or email Amber Ronan.

To contact Sheila Jones: Email [email protected]

Allocate to Elevate pledge form for GCE employees: https://gce2.sharepoint.com/sites/AllocateToElevate/Lists/AllocateToElevate/newform.aspx

Allocate to Elevate pledge form for GCU employees: https://gcumail.sharepoint.com/sites/AllocateToElevate/Lists/AllocateToElevate/newform.aspx

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