Friday, June 4, 2010

State Success: Delaware Income Tax Check-Off for Multiple Sclerosis

With the fragile state of the American economy, times are tight for everyone. The Delaware Chapter has seen a significant reduction in donations over the past 24 months. Less money means fewer programs and less financial assistance available for people living with multiple sclerosis in Delaware.

Benefits of an MS Tax Check-Off
After a proactive and exciting advocacy effort, the Delaware Chapter successfully passed legislation to establish a MS donation check-off on the state income tax form. Every person who files a Delaware State Income Tax form this year will see an option to make a donation to the Delaware Chapter of the MS Society.

Every dollar donated will stay in Delaware to be used for programs and services for Delawareans living with multiple sclerosis. This means that approximately 500,000 working adults will have the opportunity to make a donation. In addition to raising money, this will be a great way to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis and the MS Society simply by getting our name out there.

Section 1. Amend Title 30 of the Delaware Code by adding thereto a new section to read as follows: § 1192. The Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Fund. An individual who claims an overpayment of taxes on an income tax return may designate that $1 or more be deducted from the refund that would otherwise be payable to the individual and, instead, be paid to the Fund.

The Division of Revenue shall forward the amounts designated for the Fund to the Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to be used exclusively by the Delaware Chapter for the benefit of Delawareans who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and of those Delawareans who may be diagnosed in the future. A contribution to the Fund must be forwarded by the Division of Revenue to the Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society within 20 days after the receipt of the contribution.

The Delaware Chapterʼs GRC members scheduled meetings with elected officials to take place in their offices at the state capitol. On April 1, 2009 a team of eight advocates traveled south to Dover with orange-iced cupcakes and fullcolor leave-behind postcards in hand. During the meetings with DE representatives and senators, the advocates discussed five talking points, one of which was an ask for a tax check-off bill.

The MS advocates spoke in teams of two or three at the scheduled meetings, as well as spoke to people as they ran into them in the hallways. On several other occasions, teams of advocates traveled to Legislative Hall to speak to the elected officials whom they were unable to speak with on April 1. Follow up phone calls were made and e-mails were sent to reiterate the talking points and thank them for meeting with us.

State Representative Deborah Hudson responded to an e-mail asking if we had procured a sponsor for a tax checkoff bill. We had not, and she graciously offered to be the main sponsor of the bill. Rep. Hudson had the bill drafted, and then forwarded it to the GRC for review. The GRC approved the bill as written, and thanked Rep. Hudson for taking the lead. The advocates made calls to key senators and state representatives asking them to sign on as cosponsors.

The bill had a total of three senators and an amazing 19 representatives sign on as sponsors. Small teams of three or four advocates made two additional trips down to Legislative Hall near the end of the legislative session to garner support for the bill.

Pictured above: DE Governor Jack Markell with MS activists who helped advance the tax check-off legislation. Pictured at left: Governor Markell receiving the Society's 2009 Governor of the Year award.

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