Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Senate's Tax Bill Includes Incentives for Charity Gifts

As reported in the NY Times (registration required), a new Senate tax bill would allow federal income tax filers who do not itemize their deductions to deduct any charitable donations they've made if they've exceeded the minimum of $210 per individual or $410 per married couple. This seems like a good idea to me on the face of it -- charitable donations might rise overall, and, according to the article, universities and nonprofit hospitals might especially benefit from this -- but it also could mean "$914 million a year in lost taxes," according to estimates by Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (as cited in the article). And in general it suggests a move away from public services to private charities.

That said, as someone who very rarely has the opportunity to itemize her deductions (not being a homeowner with mortgage interest, etc., to deduct -- and in my city, real estate is so cheap that even if I were a homeowner it still might not make sense to itemize, which is actually the case for a large percentage of American homeowners) I would definitely give larger amounts to my alma mater and favorite charities if I could deduct it.

All of which I say as a preface to remind you that charities at work in the Gulf states in the wake of Hurricane Katrina still need your money, as do the international charities working in the aftermath of the Pakistan earthquake devastation. I took down the donation buttons I had in the side bar not because donations weren't needed but because I'm fussy and superficial, I didn't want the blog to look too "busy," and I really wanted to put up that EFF button. But now I'm going to add a permanent button for the Charity Navigator* so you can give a holiday season/end-of-the-tax-year donation now to the charities of your choice, or come back and give later, not because this bill might pass, but because your donations are always needed.

*For those not in the know, Charity Navigator is not a charity itself, but a free website that helps you evaluate a charity before giving them money. Here is their mission statment:

Charity Navigator works to guide intelligent giving. We help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on over four thousand charities and by evaluating the financial health of each of these charities. We ensure our evaluations are widely used by making them easy to understand and freely available to the public. By guiding intelligent giving, we aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation's most persistent challenges.

Charity Navigator is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization under the Internal Revenue Code and does not accept any contributions from any charities we evaluate.

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