One of the arguments made by critics of the 2017 tax reform law is that it would have a chilling effect on charitable donations to nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations. Yesterday, the U.S. Treasury released preliminary figures on charitable giving that would seem to support that idea, but it argued that the law had little impact.
Charitable contributions reported by 501(c)(3) organizations dipped to $265.5 billion for the 2018 tax year, down $3.4 billion from the year before, but nearly $14 billion more than in 2016. However, that does not necessarily include all of the organizations that had to report charitable income to the IRS due to different fiscal year end dates and the possibility of deadline extensions for filing returns.
“Treasury’s analysis of tax forms filed by charitable organizations through the end of 2019 shows that giving appeared largely unchanged from previous years,” the Treasury department stated in its news release.
Naomi Jagoda of The Hill reported that some 501(c)(3)s had a different take on the numbers.
“But stakeholders in the nonprofit sector expressed concerns, saying that Treasury’s data is in line with other studies that have shown that Trump’s tax law had a negative effect on charitable giving,” she wrote.
The 2017 tax law preserved the itemized deduction for charitable contributions, but because the law increased the size of the standard deduction, fewer people are now itemizing their deductions. That has led nonprofits and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to have concerns that the law could lead to a reduction in charitable giving, Jagoda reported.
One source said contributions should have increased at a rate equal to growth in the GDP, and another said a drop in income is even worse when inflation is factored in. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation, however, suggested that taxpayers may have given more to charities in 2017, giving part of their 2018 gifts early while they were still deductible.