Maryland legislators are considering allowing school volunteers to receive tax credits for their contributions.

The Maryland bills, SB 198 and HB 719, propose allowing parents or guardians who volunteer at their child’s school to claim an amount equal to $20 per volunteer hour, up to $500 per year. The tax credits are applicable to volunteering at public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school. Charter schools are eligible.

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Taxpayers would submit their application for tax credits to the county board member who represents the school, if it’s a public school, or a school administrator, if it’s a private school, and that individual would issue a certificate for the volunteer hours and record the number of hours each taxpayer accrues. The taxpayer can receive a refund if their credit for volunteering exceeds their state income tax.

The bills would take effect in July and apply for tax year 2024 and beyond.

In the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee meeting Jan. 24, Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s, said the bill incentivizes and supports the volunteers.

“This bill rewards those selfless individuals who already willingly donate their precious time to Maryland’s formative education institutions and monetarily incentivizes growth in our educational communities as a whole,” she said.

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According to Benson, research indicates increased parental engagement in education directly benefits communities by promoting positive education and health behaviors for and between parents and their children and increases students’ academic performance, while reducing truancy.

Prince George’s County Public Schools board member Branndon Jackson said at the meeting that he has received phone calls from blue collar working parents who are unable to volunteer because they would have to choose between doing that and taking time away from work while struggling to even maintain their level of poverty.

“Giving parents the opportunity to supplement foregone wages from volunteering would be a tremendous step in helping stabilize these families,” he said. “Every child should have the appropriate infrastructure to support their academic dreams. We can make that possible by leveling this playing field with this legislation. Parental engagement should be a question of willingness, and not affordability.”

According to the fiscal note for SB 198, general fund revenues could drop by more than $12 million annually, if at least 50% of eligible taxpayers claim credit, based on national data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Maryland data from AmeriCorps. Anne Arundel County Public Schools and Montgomery County Public Schools advised they would need to hire volunteer coordinators and procure more information technology resources to fulfill the law.

Nobody spoke against the bill at the meeting. HB 719 is slated to have a hearing Feb. 15.

A 2023 Colorado bill that would have created an income tax credit for parental engagement in schools died in the state’s education committee.

Several states provide eligible emergency workers with non-refundable income tax credits. For example, under Oregon law, emergency medical services providers who work in rural areas, unpaid, for at least 20% of the time they are providing services, may receive up to $250 in personal income tax credit. The reimbursement must be less than 25% of the individual’s gross annual income and no more than $3,000 per calendar year.