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Opinion: Food pantry tax credit needs renewed

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There was a lot of talk about tax credits in the last legislative session. I would like to recommend one tax credit that would only cost a maximum of $2 million per year, but would help thousands of Missourians get enough to eat. It’s the Local Food Pantry Tax Credit Program that was started in 2008 and is scheduled to expire Aug. 28.  

The Oversight Division of the Joint Committee on Legislative Research issued a report showing that during the first three years of the four-year program only $1.5 million of the $6 million available credits were claimed, but use has grown significantly each year, with nearly $800,000 claimed in 2010. The average donation was $450 with 99 percent of the statewide credits being claimed by individual taxpayers.

While the battle rages in Jefferson City about how to reform our tax credit programs, this program already includes many of the reforms that have been debated. Most tax credit reformers have four main goals:
  • cap the amount of tax credits one individual can receive;
  • keep tax credits from being sold or transferred;
  • cap the overall amount that can be spent on any one program; and
  • sunset all tax credit programs.
I hope the reformers will consider that the food pantry tax credit program already limits the tax credit amount to prevent one individual or one food pantry from receiving all the benefits. The amount of the tax credit will be equal to one-half the value of the donation and cannot exceed $2,500 per taxpayer. The food pantry tax credit also is nonrefundable and cannot be transferred, sold or assigned to other parties, and the program is capped at $2 million a year.

Right now would be a disastrous time to end a tax credit program that has brought additional resources to our local food pantries. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Missouri is seventh in the nation in food insecurity – more than 900,000 Missourians are food insecure – and we have the fifth-highest rate of childhood hunger in America. In this tough economy and with our state’s high unemployment rate, each additional dollar that is given to our local food pantries is being used to help feed someone in need.

As our leaders consider a special session to pass a multimillion-dollar tax credit bill, I urge them to include the Local Food Pantry Tax Credit Program.

—Rod Jetton, Branson[[In-content Ad]]

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