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Easter Sunday Charitable Giving Conversation

Date: April 12, 2020

Author: Trish Wright


Today we celebrated Easter Sunday Online--First through Zoom with our family and then through Live Stream for services. It got me thinking as I sat safer-inside on this gorgeous day about how the new tax code impacted giving (yes, I'm a tax nerd). According to the Lilly School of Philanthropy charitable giving has fallen to 56% from 67% since 2006 and it has fallen to just 38% among those under 40. Charitable tax deductions since the new tax code was implemented fell from 21% to 9% according to the Tax Policy Council--but this appears to be just measuring deductions, not giving.

Empirical evidence though my office in Long Beach, California suggests organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army and other christian organizations like Samaritan's Purse, whose fast-acting, boots-on-the-ground response to crisis are looked to with welcome relief, will be hit hard by this over the next few years. Clients said to me as they slipped their Tithe receipts and donations slips across the desk, "I guess these don't really matter any more."

One solution to reversing this trend is a Universal Tax deduction (much like the teachers $250 educator adjustment). Another solution is to give a tax credit for charity. However, how much cheating these types of tax treatments will engender is probably one of the reasons they might not get traction to begin with.

What can we do? First, we can model giving behavior to our children and friends (even though we aren't supposed to). Second, we can teach our children the three Ss--Spend, Save, Serve (aka give). Sure we can say we give time, but really how many of us flew/drove to the closest hurricane, fire, flood, earthquake, mud slide zone nearest you? I didn't. When clients tell me they have no money left over after expenses to save, I ask "if you're employer reduced your pay/hours by 10% would you deal with it?" Most say, of course. So then, of course, you can always find money to save and to serve if you choose to do so.

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