Frequent Questions

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about ACSTO and how the tax credits work.
The following questions are divided into 3 categories: For Donors, For Parents, and For Schools.

Was your question not answered here? Please contact us with any questions that may remain unanswered, and we will get back to you as soon as possible! You can also print or download our Frequently Asked Questions Brochure on our Literature page.

For Donors

How Can I Donate?

By Check: To donate by check, fill out a donor card, and mail it with your check to ACSTO.

By Credit Card: You can donate online, via our secure website, by phone at 480.820.0403, or by filling out a donor card with your credit card information and mailing or faxing it to ACSTO.

There are also monthly, payroll withholding, matching gift, and out of state options. Contact ACSTO or view our Ways to Donate page for more information.

How Much Can I Donate?

For 2016, you can donate up to $2,173 as a married couple filing jointly, $1,087 as a single filer, or your AZ income tax liability, whichever is less.

  • Married: $1,090 (Original) + $1,083 (Overflow/PLUS) = $2,173
  • Single: $545 (Original) + $542 (Overflow/PLUS) = $1,087

The maximum tax credit amount will increase each year by the percentage that the Metropolitan Phoenix Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased for the preceding year, meaning that the amounts will change slightly every year (though the Original and Overflow will never be the same amount, there will always be a slight difference). Luckily, it can never index downward.

(For example, the 2017 maximums will increase, though not my much. The 2017 total for single taxpayers will be $1,089 and the total for married filing jointly will be $2,177.)

You must first donate the maximum for the Original tax credit before anything can count toward the Overflow/PLUS tax credit.

If you have no Arizona income tax liability, you cannot receive a tax credit. However, we are a qualified non-profit for charitable donations.

See How Much Can I Donate? on our blog.

When Can I Donate?

You may donate at any time! Even monthly if that is more convenient for you.

However, we encourage you to be familiar with our timeline in case you wish for your donation to be included in one of our four award cycles. Try to donate by these deadlines, though we always process as many donations as possible before each award cycle.

July 31 - Donation Deadline to be included in the Summer Award Cycle.

October 15 - Donation Deadline to be included in the Fall Award Cycle.

January 31 - Donation Deadline to be included in the Winter Award Cycle.

April 15 - Donation Deadline to be included in the Spring Award Cycle.


Relate-Back Option: This is very handy! For donations made between January 1 and April 15, it is up to the donor to determine whether to claim the tax credit for the previous or current year.  If so, you must donate prior to filing taxes, but no later than April 15 in order to claim the credit for the previous tax year.  Donations must be postmarked or entered online before midnight, April 15.  There are no extensions allowed per tax law.

Will I Receive A Receipt?

When you donate online through our secure Donor Portal, we email you a confirmation right away (which is usually sufficient for a CPA if you need to provide verification quickly). If you registered a profile, you can also download & print your own receipt for the current or the previous year! 

We also mail out weekly receipts for those who do not donate online. 

A comprehensive receipt statement for the year will always be available by January 31 of the following year.

If you need a copy of an earlier receipt, please contact us.

Side Note: Even if you intend to claim your donation for the prior year because of the April 15 relate-back, your receipt will reflect the actual date on which you made the donation. You need that donation date to properly fill out Form 323 (and/or Form 348). We will indicate the tax year you intend to claim the donation as well. 

For example: If you donated on April 1, 2016 for your 2015 taxes, your receipt will show April 1 as the date the donation was made, but it will also indicate that it is for the 2015 tax year.

Do I Get a Refund?

Depending on how much you pre-paid the state in taxes throughout the year, and whatever other credits and deductions are involved, one of several things happen when you file your state taxes after donating:

1) What you owe is reduced, and you pay the difference to the state,

2) You overpay/double-pay on your taxes, and get a refund from the state in the amount that you overpaid,

                       - OR -

3) you donate in excess of your liability (oops!), you receive a credit/refund up to that liability, and the remaining credit can be carried forward and used to offset state income taxes for up to five years.  Instructions on Forms 323, 301, and/or 348 are used to track any carryover.

So a credit does not always equal a refund, though for most people it will result in a refund. A credit offsets what you owe the state dollar-for-dollar, but the credit is limited to your liability or the stated maximum, whichever is lessA refund will be based on what you overpaid to the state beyond your tax liability. 

The only portion that you cannot receive either a credit and/or a refund is the portion of a donation that exceeds your liability. That excess, up to the maximums for that year, is what can be claimed as a carryover in future tax years. Visit our Claiming the Credit page for a more detailed explanation, though it is best to avoid this situation entirely unless you only plan on using the overage for a plain charitable deduction.

Is Our Donation Eligible For A Federal Deduction?

Generally, yes. We are a federally tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

For federal tax purposes, any deduction must be claimed for the tax year in which the donation was made; the April 15 deadline does not apply. You should consult your tax adviser for specific tax advice concerning deductibility for your situation.

How Much of My Donation Is Awarded As A Scholarship?

Arizona law requires that 90% of donated funds are awarded as scholarships. ACSTO is privileged with the ability to award 92% of all donations received naming a school or recommending a student, and uses the balance for administrative and operating costs. 

What Is The Public School Tax Credit?

You may make an additional $400/$200 donation as married/single taxpayers toward public school extracurricular activities, and claim it as a tax credit, but public school donations are made directly to the public school, not to ACSTO.  Public school tax credit donations also have the April 15th Relateback option as of 2016.

You can donate toward both the public and the private school tax credits, but the combination should still be equal to or less than your personal tax liability.

How Do I Report A Donation On My Taxes?

Donations to ACSTO for the Original tax credit are filed using Arizona Form 323.  

Donations made for the Overflow/PLUS tax credit are filed using Arizona Form 348.

Depending on your situation (i.e.: donating to more than one tax credit) you will also need Form 301.

All forms are available in the Claiming the Credit page on our website, or directly from the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) at www.azdor.gov.

We update the Arizona tax forms on our website once they become available from the ADOR.

May I Make A Recommendation?

You may recommend anyone who is not your child or dependent.

At ACSTO we always appreciate and consider the recommendations given by donors, but please understand that by law we are not allowed to give awards only on the basis of your recommendation. This is true for all scholarship organizations. We must and do consider other factors as well, such as financial circumstances and narrative letters provided by parents. 

That is why our selection committees retain complete discretion regarding all awards. Think of your recommendation as an endorsement for that child that our committees will consider in accordance with the other factors.

That is why we can never offer a guarantee, or even an implied guarantee, and avoid 'designation' terminology.

Doesn't A Recommendation Guarantee A Scholarship?

By law, we cannot make scholarship awards based solely based on recommendations alone; the ACSTO Selection Committees must retain complete discretion regarding all awards. There are no designations and no guarantees per Arizona tax law.  In addition, no goods or services (or guarantees) are allowed in return for a charitable contribution.

Our committees consider your recommendations alongside other factors, such as financial circumstances and narrative letters provided by the parent.

Having recommendations can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship. If you don't have any recommendations, our Selection Committees only have 66% of the criteria to consider for your students, but if you do have recommendations, your student has all of criteria for our committees to consider!

Can Parents Donate To Each Other's Children?

It might seem like a good idea at first, but no. Whether intentional or not, this is called swapping. The law states, "A taxpayer may not claim a tax credit if the taxpayer agrees to swap donations with another taxpayer to benefit either taxpayer's own dependent." 

If you trade donations with another parent, it disqualifies your donation, and you are not eligible to receive any credit for that donation. We also will not honor the recommendations. This includes any form of donation circles, triangles, or round robins.  The intent of the law is to prevent trades of any kind.  

ACSTO has always discouraged this practice; the law specifically states this prohibition.

Can I Identify A Particular School?

Yes! Donations identifying a school will be awarded among applicants from that school by our selection committees. Here is our current list of schools.

Why Should I Donate To ACSTO?

There are many organizational perks we could highlight, but when it comes down to it, the one aspect we hang our hat on is Christian Education. This program is not about us, it is about providing a life-changing education for children who need it and families who can't afford it on their own. So in everything we do, we do it toward that end.

With that said, you still might be looking for more about us:

ACSTO has been operating since 1998 since the tax credit law began, helping more than 28,500 students with more than $150 million in scholarships. Since day one, over 68,500 taxpayers have trusted and preferred us for their tax credit donations. 

ACSTO has received a four out of four star rating with Charity Navigator, America's premier charity evaluator. Only five STO's in Arizona (out of over 60 in the state) have received this coveted 4 star rating for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

We strive to be a leader in serving students in more than 150 schools throughout Arizona. We actively participate in defending the tuition tax credit law in litigation (in 2011, ACSTO prevailed in the US Supreme Court in ACSTO v. Winn, providing security for the program for years to come!), are active through the STO association in legislative efforts, and support the expansion of school choice nationwide.

ACSTO's only purpose is supporting private Christian schools through the tax credit laws and the scholarships they make possible, therefore we have a thorough understanding of how it works, and all of our operations are designed to uphold the law's integrity and help schools, parents, and donors every step of the way with stellar customer service, free resources, workshops, and coordinators.

What is more, our Donor Portal allows you to register a profile and print your own receipt, making tax credit donations as easy and quick as ever!

If you'd like further details, you can learn more About Us, read about Our Mission, have an inside look at ACSTO's Values, or find out What You Can Expect from ACSTO.

What Is My Donation Used For?

ACSTO is a certified School Tuition Organization (STO), authorized by the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) to award your tax credit donations as scholarships to help students pay for tuition at private K-12 schools in Arizona.  

There are two types of scholarships that ACSTO awards, depending on which tax credit your donation(s) fall under:

1) The Original tax credit law ARS 43-1089 that ACSTO has operated with since 1998. This is the first $1056/$528 that you donate each year.

2) The Overflow/PLUS tax credit law ARS 43-1089.03 took effect in August 2012. Any donation amounts that are above and beyond the Original $1056/$528, up to another $1050/$525, falls under this award type.

Also see the question "How much of my donation is awarded as a scholarship?".

How Do I Donate For This New Overflow/PLUS Tax Credit?

You can donate to the Overflow/PLUS tax credit (aka: switcher) using the same donation process as the Original tax credit.  However, in order to donate this additional amount, the Arizona taxpayer must first donate the maximum to the Original tuition tax credit in the same taxable year.  

So, anything donated above the Original $1090/$545 maximum (married/single, respectively) will overflow into the new tax credit, up to another $1083/$542. This amount will also increase yearly (and will never be the same amount as the Original).

This does effectively increase the maximum a taxpayer can donate.  For 2016, the total tax credit available is $2,173/$1,087, or your actual tax, whichever is less. Click here for an Overflow cheat-sheet

  • Ex: If a single taxpayer donates $1,000 right now, the first $545 will automatically fall into the Original tax credit, and the remaining $455 automatically falls into the Overflow tax credit.

What If I Donate Too Much?

It depends on what limit we are talking about:

If you donate in excess of your Arizona income tax liability, but still less than or equal to the maximum allowed, you can carry the excess forward and claim it as a tax credit on another year's taxes, as long as it is within five consecutive years.

For any donation amount that is in excess of the maximums allowed by law, for 2015 it is $2,173 for married couples and $1,087 for single taxpayers, you are not able to claim it as a credit at any time.  It is a charitable donation, however, and is eligible to be claimed as a Federal deduction.

How can we avoid this problem? In order to avoid donating too much, you are able to calculate your exact taxes between January 1 and April 15, donate exactly what you can claim as a tax credit, then include that donation on your previous year's tax returns that you will file by April 15th. This is called the April 15 relate-back and is specific to the private school tuition tax credit law. Just make sure that you still donate no later than April 15, before you file.

Our Claiming the Credit page has a more detailed description.

Why Do I Have To Donate To ACSTO Instead Of The School?

The tax credit law is designed to help students attend the school of their choice, not to benefit a particular private school, especially a religious school (public money cannot be used to directly support a specific religion). So the law created scholarship organizations to facilitate the details of the law, including the processing of tax credit donations, so that when a good chunk of those tax credit donations were awarded as scholarships to religious schools, the state's hands would be clean.

This difference was vital for the law to survive legal challenges. There are many who did not want to see dollars that would have otherwise been paid in taxes to specifically benefit a religious organization. But the Arizona Supreme Court recognized that education of children, in either private or public schools, is beneficial for the common good and that it is reasonable for parents to exercise choices that are in the interests of their children.

Therefore, the law instituted the use of organizations that are separate from the schools, called school tuition organizations (STOs), in accepting these donations and making awards to students at more than one private school. You could consider us to be the impartial third party or 'middle-man' who makes the entire program possible.

Who Can I Recommend For the Overflow/PLUS Tax Credit?

You may make recommendations with your Overflow/PLUS donation, just like the Original, however, only certain eligible students are able to be considered for Overflow/PLUS awards. Here is an Overflow cheat-sheet

In order to be eligible, students must fall under one of four categories:

1)  Student is a switcher from an AZ public/charter to an AZ private school (after attendance of at least 90 days or a full semester at the public school);

2)  Student is entering or is currently in Kindergarten (Pre-K students with disabilities also qualify);

3) Student is a dependent of a member of the United States Armed Forces stationed in AZ pursuant to active military orders;

4) Student previously received Overflow/PLUS or a Corporate low-income or disability scholarship and continued in private school ever since.

Please note: ACSTO has never awarded corporate scholarships; scholarships from the Original tax credit, even if based on low income, don't count for qualification.

Arizona Has So Many Tax Credits! What Are They?

TaxCreditsInAZ.com is a nifty website which summarizes your charitable tax credit options in Arizona. It includes a fun little video that you can easily share to spread the word!

Alternatively, the best place to gather information about all the different types of individual tax credits that are available in Arizona is straight from the source, the Arizona Department of Revenue. Their website is azdor.gov.

More specifically, go to the menu on the left and click on the Tax Credits option. It will display more menu options: you will want to click on the 'Qualifying Charitable Organizations' option for the 1) Working Poor and 2) Foster Care tax credits, and the 'School Tax Credits for Individuals' option for the 3) public and 4) private school tax credits. 

You can combine any of those different tax credits on top of each other to receive more of a tax credit on your Arizona income taxes, so long as you have that much in tax liability to claim.

For 2016, a married couple filing jointly could potentially claim upwards to $3,383 in dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donations to qualifying sources. That is amazing! Just remember that ACSTO only deals with the individual private school tax credits (Original & Overflow/PLUS). We cannot accept donations for any other type of tax credit.

Why Did Arizona Reject My Donation?

Taxes aren't easy and sometimes you'll encounter a hick-up on what you claimed. If your donation was rejected by the state of Arizona, and they're asking you to pay up, it is likely that something was filed incorrectly. Unfortunately, this usually means that you will have to file an amended tax return (because if you don't you might loose out on the tax credit entirely). Here is a short list of common mistakes when claiming the tax credit. Hopefully it will help you and your financial adviser diagnose what went wrong and how to fix it.

  • Did you submit your taxes before actually making the donation? 
    Donations must be complete prior to filing.
  • Did you use a short form (140 A) or 140 EZ?
    One of the longer forms are required in order to include a tax credit (140,  140NR, or 140PY).
  • Did you forget to claim the donation on your tax returns?
    The appropriate forms are required in order to claim a credit (323, and/or 328 & 301), and then include the totals on the AZ 140.

What is the Donor Portal?

The ACSTO Donor Portal is our improved way of facilitating your tax credit donations. You can register a profile, make your donation, and even print your own receipt! 

If you have questions about the portal, you can submit one through your profile, email us at social @ acsto.org, or call us at 480.820.0403.

Our Parent Portal opened in early 2016 and the School Portal is opening Summer of 2016. If you are both a donor and a parent, you have to register separately for the Donor and Parent Portals.

*The Donor Portal will not store your credit card number. If you don't want to register a profile, you can still donate as a guest. 

For Parents

Can Parents Donate To Each Other's Children?

It might seem like a good idea at first, but no. Whether intentional or not, this is called swapping. The law states, "A taxpayer may not claim a tax credit if the taxpayer agrees to swap donations with another taxpayer to benefit either taxpayer's own dependent." 

If you trade donations with another parent, it disqualifies your donation, and you are not eligible to receive any credit for that donation. We also will not honor the recommendations. This includes any form of donation circles, triangles, or round robins.  The intent of the law is to prevent trades of any kind.  

ACSTO has always discouraged this practice; the law specifically states this prohibition.

May A Student Receive Funds From More Than One STO?

Yes, nothing would prevent that.

The only limitation is that schools can only accept scholarships that total up to student's tuition that is due for that school year. Any overage must be sent back to the organization that made the award as a 'multi-year scholarship' to be used for tuition expenses for the next school year.

If you are approved to receive ESA money from the state, however, you are not allowed to receive awards from us. You can only do one or the other.

Do We Award To Families?

Scholarship awards are student specific. There are no family accounts or awards.

When you are encouraging donors to recommend your children, we recommend that they put all your children's names down (eg: John and/or Jane Smith), and we will split the recommendation evenly between them. You can also write your children's names down on the donation cards in the way you please before handing them out.

If one of your students receive scholarships beyond the cost of tuition for one school year, the extra will simply be used for next school year. Sorry, we cannot switch scholarships from one student to another sibling just because one student received more than another. However, if you feel that there is an extenuating circumstance, it never hurts to call us and ask!

How Do I Apply For A Scholarship?

1. Complete our scholarship application

Applying is EASY and FREE:

  1. You can apply online through our Parent Portal, OR
  2. You can download the application, OR
  3. You can call us at 480-820-0403 for us to mail you a copy.

Only one application is required per school year, but a separate application is required for each student you wish to be considered for awards.

2. Make sure you have begun the enrollment process with your school.

If your child is not currently attending the school named on the application, or has not begun the enrollment process, ACSTO cannot make an award.

What Is The Application?

A new application is required for each student every school year, but don't worry, submitting an application with ACSTO is free and easy!

A complete application is not a guarantee of a scholarship, but all students who apply are considered. If you do not receive an award it isn't because you were rejected or not approved, it is simply because we did not have a complete application or there was not enough money available.

There are three pages of the application, all are required for it to be complete:

1) Student info and contact info

2) Narrative about the child

3) Financial Information (tax forms NOT required)

All scholarship organizations are required to secure financial information as a part of the award process.  It is held in the strictest confidence.

Do I Need An Application If My Child Was Recommended For An Award?

YES. A student must have a current and complete application and must be enrolled at the school before we can even consider any awards for your child.

In addition, a recommendation does not guarantee a scholarship. The state specifically requires scholarship organizations to consider multiple factors when deciding awards. That is why ACSTO's committee also considers the narrative and financial circumstance provided in the applications you submit.

Why Can't We Know Who Donated For My Child or How Much?

Federal charitable contribution laws expect donor confidentiality. It is a professional standard to keep people's financial information secure. Many donors wish to be kept anonymous unless they voluntarily disclose their identities to the benefiting party. 

We do not disclose dollar amounts for recommendations because there are no guarantees for a scholarship. If we gave a dollar amount, it could imply something that we are not allowed to imply, and it would be unfair to raise expectations when the actual amount could be more or less than the recommended amount. ACSTO and Tax Credit law discourages any expectation or entitlement to scholarships that are not yet awarded.

We'll be honest, this is a tricky question. We don't do this to be difficult, it is simply what we must do to obey the law and protect the trust of our donors. 

What Are The Application Deadlines?

We have four scholarship distributions per award/school year.  Only one application is required for the entire award year (please do not send multiple copies of your application):

Summer:   This is the first distribution of the school year.  Applications are due by July 31st.  All donations made by July 31st will be awarded during our Summer Awards in August and September.

Fall:   Applications are due by September 30th. This deadline only applies to those who have not yet sent in an application this school year. All donations made by October 15th will be awarded during our Fall Awards in November.

Winter:   Applications are due by January 31st. This deadline only applies to those who have not yet sent in an application this school year. All donations made by January 31st will be awarded during our Winter Awards in February and March.

Spring:   This is the last distribution of the award year. Applications are due by March 31stThis deadline only applies to those who have not yet sent in an application this school year. All donations made by April 15th will be awarded during our Spring Awards in May.

The Spring Award Cycle is unique in that awards may be used for the current OR the upcoming school year. If applying for the upcoming school year, simply use the current scholarship application available.

At the end of every award year, on May 31st, all applications expire, regardless of when they were received (the only exception is for those who sent in applications in the Spring for children entering Kindergarten in the Fall). New applications are available for the new award year by February 3rd.

What Factors Are Considered When Making Scholarship Awards?

The selection committee considers three factors when making award decisions:

1) the financial circumstances of the student's family;

2) the narrative provided by the parents;

3) recommendations concerning the student;

We cannot speculate as to how the committees will make their decisions.  Every award cycle is unique.  No one factor can guarantee a scholarship.

What Happens If My Child Receives An Award But Transfers To Another School?

If you switch to another school already partnered with ACSTO — No problem! Since each award is student specific, the unused portion follows the student to the new school, as long as it is a private Christian school in Arizona that works with ACSTO.

Otherwise, the remaining money will support other students at the original school.

Are There Different Types Of Scholarships?

ACSTO facilitates two types of scholarships, which are funded by two different individual tax credits:

1)  The Original tax credit law ARS 43-1089 that ACSTO has operated with for the past 15 years.

2)  The Overflow/PLUS (switcher) tax credit law ARS 43-1089.03 that began in August 2012.  Only certain students qualify, so see the question "How do I apply for an Overflow/PLUS scholarship?" for more information.

We make awards four times per year. There are no set award amounts for either type. Visit our Scholarship Opportunities page for more detailed information about each type.

How Do I Apply For An Overflow/PLUS Scholarship?

First, fill out our scholarship application as normal.

Second, include any additional required information specific to Overflow/PLUS eligibility (as indicated on the application).

This extra information is required because students must first meet certain eligibility requirements before they can be considered for Overflow scholarships. Here is an Overflow cheat-sheet for 2016

In order to be eligible, students must fall under one of the following categories:

1)  Student is a switcher from an AZ public/charter to a private school (after attendance of at least 90 days or a full semester at the public school);

2)  Student is entering or is currently in Kindergarten;

3)  Pre-K students with disabilities (at a school that offers services specifically for the student's IEP);

4)  Student is a dependent of a member of the United States Armed Forces stationed in AZ pursuant to military orders;

5)  Student previously received an Overflow/PLUS OR Corporate low-income/Corporate disabled/displaced scholarship, and continued in private school ever since.*

*ACSTO does not award Corporate scholarships; scholarships from the Original tax credit do not count even if they were awarded based on low-income.

Please review our Scholarship Opportunities page for more details.

What Happens When A Student Receives An Award But Parents Already Paid?

If parents already paid for their child's tuition, and then receives a scholarship award, one of two things could happen:

1) the remaining portion is sent back to ACSTO as a multi-year scholarship to be used for future tuition expense;

2) the school can reimburse the parents and use the scholarship award to pay for the tuition expense instead.

It is up to the school to set the policy on whether to reimburse or not.

Can I Bank Money For My Child?

State regulations do not allow us to 'bank' money for children who are too young to qualify (i.e.: not in Kindergarten yet).

The earliest you can start raising donations for your child is one year prior to attendance at a private school. We can start considering your child for actual scholarships once you begin the enrollment process at that school. Anything received earlier than that will have to be awarded to other children at that school. 

The intention of the law is for scholarships to only be awarded to students who are currently enrolled in a private school, or, at the very least, students who have begun the enrollment process at that school for grades K-12. 


Does ACSTO work with Catholic schools?

While we are the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, we do not partner with every Christian school in the state. You may have noticed that there are no Catholic schools on our Partner Schools list. We have a good working relationship with the Catholic School Tuition Organizations and they are able to make a bigger impact in Catholic schools than we could. This allows each of us to make a bigger impact for Christian Education in Arizona.

Here is our list of current Partner Schools.

How Can I Get More Scholarships?

As with any scholarship program, there is unfortunately no way to know how much scholarship money will be available nor is there a guaranteed way to get more. This is because of two things: the law and the money source. First, the law does not allow guarantees. Second, all our money is dependent on how much people donate.

All scholarship money is provided by donors who give tax credit donations to ACSTO. We, in turn, award that money among the students who apply.

ACSTO encourages all parents and schools to seek out supporters who will make tax credit donations recommending their children and/or school as a hopeful recipient. 

While we cannot guarantee any results, the more recommendations you have for your child, the more our award committees will have to consider!

Our FREE e-book, ACSTO 101: A Guide to Raising Tax Credit Donations, discusses some great strategies on how to procure donations recommending your children.

For Schools

What Can Scholarships Be Used For?

Any scholarships awarded by ACSTO may only be used for K-12 private school tuition for the student named on the award.

Tuition is determined by the school and is generally the out-of-pocket expense charged to the parents. It generally constitutes what the school charges for every child in the student body, though discounts or financial aid programs may decrease the tuition amount for specific students. Any non-refundable payments and/or portions of tuition that are not the responsibility of the parents are not eligible for our scholarships.

Any scholarships awarded may not  be used for the following:

  • Pre-K classes or programs.  This includes any kind of program that is before Kindergarten.  Kindergarten is defined as the grade that prepares students for 1st grade in the following year.  If the program does not intend for students to graduate to 1st grade in the next year, it is not kindergarten (there is an exception for pre-K students with disabilities, please contact us for more info).
  • Non-Refundable Payments of any kind, whether for registration fees, tuition due, or other fees. If any payment is non-refundable, that portion is not eligible for a scholarship.
  • Tuition amounts that are not charged to the parents. If it is not out-of-pocket expense, it is not tuition, such as discounts or school financial aid.
  • Children attending both a public and a private school at the same time. No student can receive both public and private money at the same time.
  • Students receiving Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) grants.
  • Charter schools or schools operated by a charter school
  • Homeschooling

Can We Determine Who Gets a Scholarship?

No, scholarship awards can only be awarded by the scholarship organization.  All awards are at the sole discretion of our selection committees. However, we encourage schools to give recommendations (with a reason for their recommendation) and our committees will consider it as part of the award process.

What Is A Qualified School?

Per tax credit law ARS 43-1601: Qualified school means a non-governmental primary or secondary school (K-12) that is located in the state of Arizona and that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, disability, familial status or national origin and that requires all teaching staff and personnel that have unsupervised contact with students to be fingerprinted.  It also includes preschools that offers services to students with disabilities.  A qualified school does not include charter schools or any programs operated by a charter school.

Tax credit law also requires that the school charges tuition. Scholarships cannot be used for anything besides tuition and cannot be used for any portion of tuition that is non-refundable.

Education law also requires private schools to have regular classroom instruction that meets the state requirement for hours per year (see A.R.S. 15-901 for details).

In addition, ACSTO has a specific focus on partnering with Protestant/Evangelical Christian schools. 

If you are a qualifying school, and would like to partner with ACSTO, please visit our For Schools page for more information. You can also view our current list of partner schools.

Can Schools Accept Scholarships From An STO That Exceeds Tuition?

The law states that if a scholarship exceeds the school's total cost of educating that student, the amount in excess of that school year should be returned to ACSTO. We will then save it as a multi-year award for that student, and we will return it for that student once tuition becomes due for the next school year. If the student doesn't return, we'll re-award it as scholarships for other students at your school.

In other words, a school can only accept scholarship money that pays for the student's current school year. Any excess must be returned to ACSTO as a 'multi-year scholarship.' It is simply a matter of who is supposed to hold onto it in the meantime.

  • For the Summer Awards - The school may accept funds for the upcoming school year only. The previous school year is closed and no scholarships can be used for a previous year's tuition expense.
  • For the Fall and Winter Awards - The school may accept scholarships for the current school year only.
  • For the Spring Awards - This award cycle is unique in that the school may accept funds for the current school year and the upcoming school year.

Can Scholarships Pay for Tuition That Is Past Due?

Scholarships can only be used to pay for any tuition that is still due for the current school year.  The one exception is for awards given in the Spring Award Cycle, that money can be used to pay for current or upcoming tuition expense.  But no school can accept or use scholarships for a previous school year's tuition expense.

When Are Scholarship Awards Sent To Our School?

ACSTO has four scholarship cycles per school year: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Each cycle has Original and Overflow/PLUS awards, but they are done as a separate process. We recommend you become familiar with our timeline. Exact dates vary, but usually earlier than the dates provided below.


  • Original Awards - Checks sent to schools by August 31st
  • Overflow Awards - Checks sent by September 15th


  • Original Awards - Checks sent by November 15th
  • Overflow Awards - Checks sent by November 30th


  • Original Awards - Checks sent by February 28th
  • Overflow Awards - Checks sent by March 15th


  • Original Awards - Checks sent by May 15th
  • Overflow Awards - Checks sent by May 31st

Award checks are accompanied with a breakdown of the students who were considered and the amounts they were awarded. If we held any money back as a multi-year award, we indicate that as well.

What Is An 'Enrollment Status'?

In order for students to be eligible to receive an award they have to be enrolled, or have at least begun the enrollment process, at your school.  This is the state's way of ensuring that scholarship money is only used for tuition, because if a student is not actually enrolled at a private school, then there is technically no tuition due.

We send out enrollment lists to schools about a month before each of our 3 award cycles with lists of students who have applied to receive scholarship awards from us. On these lists we ask for your school to confirm whether the students are actually attending your school (or at least sincerely began the process).

Sometimes, it will be accompanied with another list. This will include students who have specifically received recommendations from donors, but the student does not have a current application. We usually don't have contact information for these students so it's up to you! Please indicate whether they are enrolled as well, and if they are, try to notify the parents so that they may complete the application and be considered for potential awards.

It is up to the school to determine at what point a student is considered to be officially "enrolled", though if a student leaves they are considered to be not enrolled from the day they left. The following are the types of 'statuses' that indicate a student is not qualified for scholarships: 

  • Not in the Enrollment Process - Parents have not began official steps to enroll
  • No Contact - School hasn't heard of the student
  • Left - Student has left the school or transferred
  • Moved - Student has moved out of the state
  • Graduated - Student has graduated out of 12th grade
  • Too Young - Student is not yet in Kindergarten
  • ESA - Student is receiving Empowerment Scholarship Account money from the state

Can Scholarships Be Used For Students Who Leave?

The Arizona Dept of Revenue only considers students who are currently enrolled in a private school as eligible for tuition scholarships.

So for students who have left your school, scholarships can only be used for the time students actually attended on a prorated basis. So scholarships cannot be used to 'finish off' the school year if the student left early. That also means that if a student enrolls, but then leaves before school starts, the entirety of any scholarships awarded for that school year must be returned. Students who begin receiving ESA money are also unqualified for scholarships for the entire school year that they receive aid from that source.

The remainder or anything sent back to ACSTO will be used among other students at your school. 

Questions about when we make our awards,
or when application deadlines are?

Check out our Award Year Timeline!

Be sure to visit to our blog as well! We frequently blog in response to questions we receive in order to answer many of these common questions in more detail, in addition to keeping you updated on the newest developments in Arizona school choice!

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