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Donations to hospital may earn tax credits
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Liberty Regional Medical Center is on Highway 196 West in Hinesville. - photo by File photo

Under a new law, during the next three years, taxpayers who donate to Liberty Regional Medical Center may be eligible for a tax credit on their Georgia income taxes.

A participant in the Georgia Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment program, Liberty Regional has been allocated $4 million of the total $50 million of tax credits that will be available to individuals and corporations who contribute to qualifying rural hospitals.

"Because donors will receive a state income tax credit for contributing to our hospital, the HEART tax credit program gives their contributions a booster shot that exceeds the benefits of the usual charitable deduction," Liberty Regional CEO Michael Hester said.

State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, wrote the law, which passed during the 2015-16 session of the General Assembly in the form of Senate Bill 258. The measure allows single taxpayers a tax credit for 70 percent of contributions, up to maximum $2,500 per year for individuals and up to $5,000 per year for married couples; and 70 percent of their contributions or 75 percent of their Georgia income tax liability for corporations, whichever is less. In addition, contributors who itemize deductions will be able to take a charitable deduction on their federal income tax returns.

The tax credit was designed to "bridge the gap" for rural hospitals, many of which face demographic, industry and financial challenges. Under SB 258, the tax credit expires after 2019.

"The additional funding that the Georgia HEART tax credit stimulates will help rural hospitals like ours meet some challenges pending a few longer-term solutions that are in the works," Hester said.

Atlanta-based Portage Charity Advisors created the HEART program to help qualifying hospitals, such as Liberty Regional, navigate the contribution marketing, processing, tracking, and reporting requirements relating to the law. The Georgia HEART program is a collaboration among Portage, the Georgia Hospital Association (through its Georgia Hospital Health Services subsidiary) and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Although the Georgia Department of Revenue will not approve tax credits until next year, 12 of the 49 eligible hospitals have already elected to participate. Jim Kelly, director of Georgia HEART, expects more hospitals to do so.

"These early participants are using our marketing and communications materials and strategies to contact and educate potential donors in their communities," Kelly said.

On Dec. 1, the Georgia Department of Community Health will publish the final list of eligible hospitals that have qualified by submitting information about their finances and five-year plans of how the funds will improve their financial sustainability.

Liberty Regional is planning a three-year HEART campaign and is encouraging potential donors to get in line at www.georgiaheart.org to have Georgia HEART submit their application to the DOR for tax credit pre-approval in January.

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