Last year, more than 8,000 Iowa taxpayers helped boost wildlife conservation with donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund on their tax form. It is the third year in a row donations to the fund have increased, a trend that Stephanie Shepherd, DNR diversity wildlife biologist, hopes to continue in 2014.
“The number of Iowans donating to the fund is growing after a 10-year downward trend,” said Shepherd. “Those donations go directly to research and habitat development for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species, so the funds are very important for natural resources.”
According to Shepherd, 8,000 Iowans donated almost $133,000 last spring when completing their 2012 tax forms.
The Fish and Wildlife Fund, known popularly as the “Chickadee Check-off,” is a mechanism the Iowa Legislature created in the 1980s for Iowa citizens to donate to wildlife conservation on the Iowa state tax form. At its height, Iowans donated more than $200,000 annually to the fund. According to Shepherd, one of the main reasons for the decline is the increase in electronic tax filing.
“It is easy to pass over or forget, and many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” said Shepherd. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer, or check out the completeness of the electronic program they are using.”
According to Shepherd, donating on the tax form is easy: simply write the amount to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife Check-Off (Line 55a on the 1040 long form) and the sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed. As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes.
“Currently only about half a percent of Iowans donate,” said Shepherd. “Our goal in 2014 is for more people to find the check off on their electronic tax form, and to increase donations by 10 percent.”
All proceeds from the check-off support the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity program, responsible for protecting more than 1,000 fish and wildlife species in the state. Money from the Check-off helps improve wildlife habit, fund research studies, support the reintroduction of threatened or endangered species, and much more.