The Importance of Charitable Giving

BY MIREYA EAVEY SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY NOV 25, 2017

The holiday season means the start of charitable giving for many families. Giving to your community is a selfless act, and one of the most personal things you can do. By giving to a local social service agency, cultural or educational institution, or your place of worship, you are serving others and improving our collective quality of life.

Charitable giving also reduces your family’s tax bill. About 1.8 million taxpayers in Florida take the charitable deduction, which allows a tax payer to reduce their tax burden in exchange for donating to charity. Nationwide, 31 million take the charitable deduction. But, Congress is taking steps to reduce the use of the charitable deduction, and create a $13 billion loss for charities and non-profits nationwide.

The House tax bill that passed last week includes a provision to increase the standard deduction to $24,000 for couples, which on its face sounds reasonable. However, without changes, it would be devastating to nonprofits in our community. Doubling the standard deduction would reduce the number of filers who itemize their taxes, and decimate an incentive for charitable giving. In considering the impact of this change, Indiana University found that charitable giving would drop by $13 billion, out of $390 billion given nationwide in 2016.

There are families who need real tax relief. We see them every day as part of United Way’s work with ALICE families: Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. They are struggling to afford the regular expenses necessary for their family to be successful. Tax reform should reduce tax liability for ALICE families, not harm the ability of social service and educational institutions to positively impact their lives.

We want tax reform to help working families by making the charitable deduction universal to all taxpayers. This would allow the standard deduction to increase, but maintain the tax benefit that you receive by donating to charities. Expanding the charitable deduction to all taxpayers could result in an additional $4.8 billion for charities and nonprofits, since more filers could seek to gain the tax benefit of charitable contributions.

In the face of government budget cuts, charities and non-profits are being asked to step up to the plate and do more for more people. The loss of $13 billion Florida taxpayers claimed in charitable deductions would only erode our ability to serve our communities.

There are several ways to reduce the tax burden on working families. From Sen. Marco Rubio’s idea to increase and improve the Child Tax Credit, to bipartisan efforts to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, Congress has options to ensure the tax code treats ALICE families fairly. Making the charitable deduction universal promotes charitable giving and protects nonprofits, and the ALICE families we serve, from the harmful effects of a possible doubled standard deduction.

Mireya Eavey is Sarasota Area president for United Way Suncoast.

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