"Chickadee Check-Off" Got a Boost in the 2010 Tax Season
Posted: 01/24/2012
BOONE – Wildlife conservation got a boost during the 2010 tax year from donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund, increasing for the first time since 2007.  The number of people donating also increased, but remains fewer than 8,000. 

The Fish and Wildlife Fund, unofficially called the Chickadee Check-off, is a way for taxpayers to donate money to wildlife conservation in Iowa on the state tax form.
“Donations to this fund have been trending downward over the last 10 years so any increase is a real boon,” said Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity Program.

The check-off appears on line 58 of electronic and paper versions of Iowa’s 1040 tax forms. All proceeds from the check-off support the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity Program, which works to protect more than 1,000 fish and wildlife species in the state of Iowa.

“Without the tax check-off, species such as the peregrine falcon, trumpeter swan and osprey would not have had such successful comebacks in Iowa,” said Shepherd.

Even with the increase, donations are still much lower than in the past.

“Fewer than 8,000 people donate to the fish and wildlife check-off which represents only about 0.5 percent of total taxpayers and equals about $127,000 in contributions,” said Shepherd.  “This is disappointing because if every taxpayer gave just $1 it would mean almost $1.5 million for wildlife conservation in the state.”

Reasons for the low level of giving may vary, but the top reason may be that more Iowans are relying on tax preparers and electronic programs to do their taxes.

“It is easy to pass over or forget, and many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” said Shepherd. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer or check out the completeness of the electronic program they are using.”

Money from the check-off helps improve wildlife habit, fund research studies, support the reintroduction of threatened or endangered species, and much more.

Donating on the tax form is extremely easy: simply write the amount to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife Check-Off and the sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed.  In addition, there are no administrative costs so every penny goes to wildlife conservation in Iowa. As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes. 

The Iowa legislature added the Chickadee Check-off, now called the Fish and Wildlife Fund, to the state tax form in the early 1980s.