Politicians overtook wild animals in popularity among Utah tax filers last year, according to State Tax Commission figures on contributions to the two groups by income tax form check-offs.

"Utah's political parties received nearly $16,000 more than the nongame wildlife fund on the 1986 state income tax return voluntary check-off option," Lee Shaw, commission spokesman, said Thursday.It was the first time political contributions topped those for nongame wildlife in the six years both check-offs have appeared on Utah tax forms, Shaw said.

"The political parties received $127,785 by taxpayers designating which party they would have receive a state-funded contribution of $1 per taxpayer," he said. "The nongame wildlife fund received $111,803 from taxpayers."

The wildlife contributions come from refunds due taxpayers, while the political check-off comes out of state coffers, he said.

The nongame fund donations have been on a steady downward trend since the contribution option began appearing on 1981 tax returns, from a first-year high of $208,500.

Political parties the same year received $181,536 in tax form check-off funds.

On 1982 forms, wildlife beat politicians by $172,480 to $132,950. The margin widened to its biggest gap in favor of wildlife in 1983, $191,680-$131,560; then began to close in 1984, $149,000-$135,980; and $147,400-$137,600, in 1985.

Finally, on 1986 forms filed last year, political parties emerged with the largest amount of cash.

Shaw said the commission has not analyzed what causes the contribution trends, if political donations are linked to election years, or if the two causes are seen by tax filers as competing for dollars.

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But 1988 forms, to be sent out early next year, will contain a third check-off box - an optional donation for Utah's homeless that was authorized by the 1988 Legislature.

Meanwhile, the options for political party donations narrowed on the 1987 forms, because the Libertarian and American parties, previously listed on the forms failed to qualify for inclusion, Shaw said.

Among political parties on last year's tax forms, Republicans reaped the biggest amount of cash, getting $69,527, or 54.4 percent of the total, he said.

Democrats received $54,887, or 43 percent; followed by Libertarians, $2,885, and the American Party, $486.

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