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High School voluntary contributions and tax deductability

By shirty_bear - 28 June 2011 12

Is the hivemind aware of any good reason why voluntary contributions at primary school are tax-deductible (by way of a library fund or somesuch), but for high school they are not?

I believe in paying these fees, and have paid every year at primary school. But since these fees essentially compensate for a shortfall in government funding, I insist they be deductible.

We’ve put this question to the school and just gotten a glib “no” in response. Surely, if they want parents to chuck in extra money, this is an obvious place to start?

What’s Your opinion?


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12 Responses to
High School voluntary contributions and tax deductability
bitzermaloney 10:05 am 29 Jun 11

Given that attending a public school is a minority situation (with over 50% of ACT students attend a private school) it seems the money is not an issue, but more likely a reflection on the general public’s opinion of the state of the public education system.

Maybe it’s time to for schools to introduce compulsory fees, with those that cannot legitimately afford them have them subsidised. Given the Feds have money to give away to old folk for TV’s they’ll never understand how to use it would seem a small task.

trevar 8:15 am 29 Jun 11

So don’t pay! If they were genuinely interested in having your contribution, they wouldn’t be so dismissive. Judging by the response you got, the school has all the money it needs and wouldn’t be able to do anything useful with the additional funds anyway.

If I got a response like that from my school, I would be using the money to increase the educational resources available to my children in our home where I can have control of it, rather than putting it in the hands of an organisation that can’t be bothered giving you a decent response.

Watson 8:08 am 29 Jun 11

In our primary school, last year you were given a choice how much of the voluntary contribution went to the library fund – tax-deductible – and how much to the P&C. This year it all goes to the library fund. And even though the school library is a nice little service, I can’t see why they would need that much money. There’s a perfectly good public library down the road!

So I’m considering not paying the contribution, but instead donating the money to the P&C directly this year. I too would prefer it to be tax deductible, but it’s not a huge amount, so I’m happy to miss out on the few dollars in my tax return to make sure the money is put to better use.

Gerry-Built 2:58 am 29 Jun 11

Classified said :

Sure there’s a few who can’t afford it, but they’re in the minority.

…and the Princiipal has access to a fund to cover those families for additional education costs; such as CVs, excursions, uniform etc, should they be prepared to ask (in writing).

housebound 4:52 pm 28 Jun 11

Padoof said :

If the contributions are made to the library fund as a tax deduction, the funds must be used to purchase items for the library – the ATO certainly has rules about how DGRs may use funds donated, so the money can’t be ‘shifted’ to the ‘general funds’ account.

Money can’t be shifted directly, but if the library is fully funded by the parent body, that frees up money for somewhere else. It is a type of shifting, but not a literal shift (if you give me $40 for dinner, then I can spend my own money on something else). I apologise for not being clearer the first time around.

shirty_bear 2:24 pm 28 Jun 11

Padoof said :

If the contributions are made to the library fund as a tax deduction, the funds must be used to purchase items for the library – the ATO certainly has rules about how DGRs may use funds donated, so the money can’t be ‘shifted’ to the ‘general funds’ account.

Good info, thx Padoof. But it really just narrows my question to “why don’t high schools want a library or a building fund?” At least the library then requires less school funding; worst-case scenario seems to be an over-funded library (which could potentially house all sorts of gear … how bad would that be?)

Sorry, but I don’t see how this is an obstacle that primary schools Territory-wide can surmount, but high schools can’t.

shirty_bear 1:47 pm 28 Jun 11

Gerry-Built said :

Just to give everyone an idea of school’s needs for VCs; out of 1000+ students in the Secondary School I work in, $8000 was collected last year for Voluntary Contributions. If everyone paid, it would be well over $125,000. That gives you an indication as to how much money is missing from potential income for school programs. VCs are used *only* to enrich the curriculum…

This is kinda my point … I’m of the opinion that much more would come in were it deductible. The fact that this seems to have gone into the too-hard basket suggests to me that the schools don’t *really* want the money. Which I’m sure they would never admit to, and I doubt is the case. Hence my head-scratching.

wrigbe said :

Incidently I always try to pay into the ‘non-tax’ option because I thought that would be the area that needed money the most. Perhaps that is my mistake – if they don’t have to give me a reciept they forget to put in the payment.

I can’t imagine the schools would have to declare fees as income, and pay tax on them. The non-tax option sounds like the tax deductibility I speak of, for the parents’ benefit.

Padoof 1:35 pm 28 Jun 11

If the contributions are made to the library fund as a tax deduction, the funds must be used to purchase items for the library – the ATO certainly has rules about how DGRs may use funds donated, so the money can’t be ‘shifted’ to the ‘general funds’ account. All financial transactions undertaken by the P&C are audited each year.

If you want your contributions put to the best possible use, don’t make the tax deductible contribution and let the school and P&C determine how best the funds may be used.

The ATO website has information about DGRs:
http://www.ato.gov.au/nonprofit/content.aspx?menuid=0&doc=/content/66281.htm&page=1#P79_4245

wrigbe 1:23 pm 28 Jun 11

I personally am starting to wonder if my child’s school is really serious about wanting voluntary contributions. Every year I have terrible difficulty paying them because they seem to lose the payment somehow. This year for example so far I have given them my credit card details twice and twice they have managed to lose them – despite handing it directly to the admin staff! I will go in again but really I am getting very tired of constantly having to chase them up. I suspect the problem is that they get so few payments that they have no systems for collecting and ensuring the details are followed through.
Incidently I always try to pay into the ‘non-tax’ option because I thought that would be the area that needed money the most. Perhaps that is my mistake – if they don’t have to give me a reciept they forget to put in the payment.

Classified 1:02 pm 28 Jun 11

We always pay the voluntary contribution to the school. I think, quite frankly, that parents who don’t pay are mostly being scabby. Sure there’s a few who can’t afford it, but they’re in the minority.

Gerry-Built 12:28 pm 28 Jun 11

Just to give everyone an idea of school’s needs for VCs; out of 1000+ students in the Secondary School I work in, $8000 was collected last year for Voluntary Contributions. If everyone paid, it would be well over $125,000. That gives you an indication as to how much money is missing from potential income for school programs. VCs are used *only* to enrich the curriculum…

Generally, parents of Year 7 students are the most likely to pay VCs. If the ACT Government was serious about providing a “free education” – the potential amount of VCs should be covered by the Government, with all collected VCs being directly recouped…

housebound 11:13 am 28 Jun 11

The good reason is that the school has to set up a special account and negotiate it with the tax office. Many schools do this by setting it up as a building fund or a library fund. It possibly works for primary schools so well because there is more flexibility to shift money around (so the school doesn’t fund the library, and the money allocated by DET for that goes to something else). Yay for SMB. Private schools operate on similar lines, of course.

High schools don’t seem to have this set up for some reason. It could be because the parent body is less involved at high school – it does take a bit of commitment to get this going – or because the fees are more directly allocated to subject areas and so there is less flexibility.

And they are fees – it’s just that the ACTGov gives people the option to freeload by calling the fees ‘voluntary contributions’. In our experience, it was often the poor (who could have used support from the school) who paid up and the rich who didn’t.

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