We’re counting down the hours till the IRS tax deadline, and news feeds are abuzz with stories about how Americans are experiencing the new tax laws.
Perceptions vary regarding whether individual taxpayers are paying more, less or about the same as previous years. But while most taxpayers will see the impacts on their pocketbook by Monday, the jury is still out for the impact to nonprofits.
“Wait,” my astute readers might say. “Nonprofits don’t even pay taxes!” In most cases, you are absolutely correct. Yet, predictions have been that the changes in your taxes may affect the donations nonprofits receive.
With the new simplified tax code, the standard deduction (the base amount taxpayers can claim as a deduction without itemizing) essentially doubled. This is great news for millions of Americans who don’t have to go through the hassle of itemizing. It may not be great news for nonprofits.
Charitable contributions are among the many deductions itemizers can take to reduce their taxable income. This has benefited charitable organizations because it acts as incentive for taxpayers to donate. As more people claim the standard deduction, they no longer have that financial incentive to donate. Perhaps the standard deduction includes all the potential deductions that would have been itemized. The truth is whether I give $20,000 to charity or zilch, my husband and I still get to claim that $24,000 standard.
Although this has been anxiety-producing for nonprofits, we still don’t know what the real impacts will be. We know that previously, about 30% of taxpayers itemized. Early predictions were that the number of itemizers would be reduced to 5%.
The more interesting question is how much of a motivator that tax incentive has really been. Some have taken a doomsday approach, estimating $13 billion in lost revenue for nonprofits.
I have a more optimistic view of our American givers. I think the tax incentives were a nice perk, but they have not been the reason most Americans give to nonprofits.
According to Nonprofits Source, individual donors have been the vast majority of giving (72% of gifts received in 2017), so a major decrease in individual giving would indeed be a blow to nonprofits. The next highest level of giving was foundations at just 15% of giving.
However, charitable giving has been on the upswing, growing 4% in 2016 and 5% in 2017 without any increase in expected “incentives.” In 2017, 84% of millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) gave to charity, even though they are at an age least likely to itemize. The value of giving in America appears to go beyond tax breaks.
While it will be interesting to see how giving changes, I predict that Americans will continue to give at high levels. I suspect we give because we are passionate about nonprofit causes, we want to help others and we want to impact our communities and our worlds. No tax law can take that away.
Join me in giving to our community nonprofits at www.unitedway-swco.org.
Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.