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‘Small yet mighty’ tax credit program lauded before Senate committee


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The chairwoman of a Senate committee probing Missouri’s tax credits expressed concern last month of whether enough help was going to small businesses and rural areas. But Jennifer Carter Dochler testified before the interim group about a certain program she said especially helps those communities. 

Dochler, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV) public policy director, highlighted the domestic violence shelter tax credit as a “small but mighty” program beneficial to rural areas in front of the Interim Committee on Tax Credit Efficiency and Reform Monday afternoon. 

The program is solidified in state statute and allows individuals or corporations who donate at least $100 to shelters approved by the Department of Social Services (DSS) the ability to claim a 50 percent tax credit of the amount given. No more than $50,000 in credits can be claimed per year, and the total amount of tax credits is capped at $2 million — disbursed among the eligible shelters. 

DSS reviews the approved tax credits quarterly, according to information from MCADSV, and can redistribute unused tax credits to other eligible shelters. 

“A lot of the attention has been on the larger tax credits, which are also important, but we wanted to be able to highlight the benevolent tax credit because … for some of our member agencies who do rely on them, it really incentivizes people not only to donate but sometimes give more money than they otherwise would,” Dochler told The Missouri Times. “It’s really critical for both urban and rural programs, but particularly for rural programs, fundraising is always a challenge.” 

Dochler noted benevelot tax credits only account for less than 4 percent of credits awarded but pointed to the strong accountability seen with the domestic violence shelter program. 

Shelters must file with DSS by June 1 annually to be considered eligible for the program, which lasts for an entire fiscal year. And if an agency cannot provide documentation to DSS within a year, the tax credits become void. 

For the 2020 fiscal year, 47 domestic violence shelters were approved for the program. 

“With all the focus on tax credits, we just want to continue to reiterate how important the domestic violence shelters tax credit program is,” Dochler said. 

Chaired by Republican Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, the interim committee is tasked with examining the social and cost analysis benefits of Missouri’s tax credit programs, its return on investments, economic development incentives, and other goals for tax credits. O’Laughlin has said the state needs to do a better job of looking into the results of the awarded incentives. 

O’Laughlin placed an emphasis on the committee focusing on “dominant” tax credit programs. She established those — based on Fiscal Year 2018 — as low-income housing, senior citizen circuit breaker, Missouri Quality Jobs, historic preservation, and Missouri Works. 

Aside from O’Laughlin, the committee is comprised of Republican Sens. Mike Cierpiot, Bill Eigel, Dan Hegeman, Denny Hoskins and Andew Koenig. Democratic Sens. John Rizzo and Brian Williams also sit on the committee. 

Additionally, senators heard testimony from a bevy of witnesses during Monday’s hearing which lasted just more than one hour. Most focused on historic, film, and low income housing tax credits.