Charitable Giving Continues to be Priority for Oklahoma, the United States

Oped by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

Oklahoma ranks in the top ten in the United States in charitable giving (according to a number of polls). Charitable giving is also a priority issue for Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). He has expressed great support for incentives and ways that Americans can continue giving back to their communities, and he has been a staunch supporter of the sector’s ability to raise money.

Last month, Sen. Lankford along with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin asking for data about charitable giving in the United States. In particular, they are asking the Treasury Department to “provide any data that is currently available on charitable deductions in tax year 2018 and projections for charitable giving in tax year 2018.” The tax reform bill doubled the American standard deduction, reducing the number of people in the United States who itemize on their returns from 30 percent to just five.

Before the reforms were passed in December, the University of Indiana released a study that projected a loss of charitable giving of between $13 and $22 billion annually because of the changes in the standard deduction. It asserted that the reforms would disincentivize giving, as Americans would have less need to give donations to meet thresholds for itemizations. Lankford and Coons cited another study from the American Enterprise Institute that said the impact would be $17.2 billion.

The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits is watching this closely. We have, along with a number of accounting firms, planned giving and major gifts experts, worked hard to educate nonprofits, philanthropists and businesses about the implications of tax reform, offering a number of alternative ways to give along with training nonprofits to focus more closely on mid-level, individual donors who would be most likely to cut giving based upon the changes in incentives.

Sen. Lankford and his bipartisan colleagues are concerned about the impact to charitable giving. He has also expressed his willingness to support legislation that could help re-incentivize giving, even for Americans who will not itemize on their taxes. Called the “Universal Charitable Deduction,” it would give Americans an opportunity to deduct some of their charitable giving on top of their standard deductions.

As we enter the second half of the year, all eyes will be on charitable giving. What we do know is that most data available on giving will not be available for possibly two years, and many Americans may not realize the impact of the changes to the standard deduction until they visit their own accountants after Jan. 1, 2019. We continue to encourage businesses to support nonprofits in the community, and more importantly, for those business to encourage individual employees to continue supporting charities of their choice, including through workplace giving campaigns.

While we know that charitable giving incentives aren’t the only reason people give (in fact, according to fundraising experts, it isn’t even in the top five), those incentives do have an effect on timing of gifts and amount of giving at the end of the year. I encourage Oklahomans to continue their generosity this year, giving locally into their communities. I also look forward to working with Sen. Lankford and the rest of our delegation to ensure that charitable giving incentives remain strong for all Americans.

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