03.09.21

Lankford, Coons Continue to Lead Push to Incentivize Charitable Giving

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tim Scott (R-SC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) today introduced the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act to expand and extend the current deduction for charitable giving. The bill would ensure that Americans who donate to charities, houses of worship, religious organizations, and other nonprofits are able to deduct that donation from their federal taxes at a higher level than the current $300 deduction. In the COVID-19 relief package passed in December 2020, an extension of the $300 charitable deduction was included for 2021. 

Specifically, the bill would make available to taxpayers who do not itemize on their tax returns—for tax years 2021 and 2022—a below-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers). 

“In the last year, we have seen the powerful impact that nonprofits and houses of worship have on our communities and how they continue to help our neighbors in the toughest times. They are the local safety net when families need an extra hand,” said Lankford. “In a world that has changed significantly in the last year, we have seen more than ever the need to encourage giving to local nonprofits and houses of worship to support their selfless service to those in need.” 

“Seeing the need in their communities, the American people have stepped up by giving to food banks, community groups, and other nonprofits,” said Coons. “People of all means want to be part of the solutions in their community—solutions often driven by charities and houses of worship—but our tax code ignores the giving of most Americans. If more Americans were acknowledged for and supported in their donations, there would be more giving, period. Our bill, the Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act, would substantially increase the emergency charitable giving incentive to adequately reflect the magnitude of goodwill that so many are showing.”

“Nonprofits fill the most acute needs in our communities, surpassing governmental efforts in responsiveness, dollar-for-dollar return on investment, and targeting acute and changing needs,” said Lee. “During the pandemic, churches, charities, and community organizations have creatively met immense need in their neighborhoods, despite reports that many sources of donations have disappeared or decreased significantly.

“Last year, our bipartisan coalition paved the way for the creation of a charitable deduction for all American taxpayers. This year, we are again calling on Congress to increase that deduction to more than $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples. The charitable deduction has long embodied the insight that individuals should not be taxed on money they choose to give away. That maxim should hold irrespective of an individual’s total income,” Lee concluded.

“Nonprofits across New Hampshire have been on the frontlines serving families in need throughout this pandemic, and charitable donations are their lifeline to defray costs and help keep their doors open. Yet due to changes in the tax code made by the 2017 tax law, the incentive for ordinary families to contribute to their favorite causes has been significantly weakened,” said Shaheen. “Congress should do everything it can to keep these donations flowing, including modifying the tax code to reinstate more generous incentives for charitable giving. I’m glad to partner with this bipartisan coalition on this common-sense measure to reward charitable donations, and I’ll continue to fight for resources for Granite State nonprofits and organizations serving our most vulnerable populations.”

“Nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship all across South Carolina and the nation have filled the void that many communities developed during the pandemic,” said Scott. “They have been the hands and feet of their neighborhoods, going into places that need aid the most. I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic and Recovery Act to ensure those who have helped these organizations give back are not taxed on their generosity.” 

“Nonprofits are on the front lines of this crisis, but as demand for their services soars, many of these organizations are struggling to keep their doors open,” said Klobuchar. “This bill will expand the universal tax deduction for charitable giving to help nonprofits continue to serve their communities during the pandemic.” 

“Nonprofits in Maine and throughout the country have been going above and beyond to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Collins.  “By creating additional tax incentives for Americans who donate to charitable causes, this bipartisan bill would help give these dedicated organizations the support they need as we continue to combat this public health and economic crisis.” 

“During these challenging times, non-profits, community organizations, and religious organizations have provided immeasurable relief and support to struggling Nevada families,” said Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to colead this legislation that will recognize the generous donations many Americans have given to these lifesaving organizations and incentivize further charitable giving during the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Lankford has successfully pushed to ensure that faith-based-organizations were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program and that taxpayers and nonprofits benefited from a $300 deduction ($600 for those filing jointly) for charitable giving on federal income taxes. Last June, Lankford provided testimony before the congressional Joint Economic Committee, offering his full support for encouraging Americans to work with and give to nonprofits in their communities and around the nation to best serve their families and neighbors. 

During debate on the CARES Act last year in the initial phases of relief proposals, Lankford and Senator Angus King (I-ME) sent a letter to Senate leadership to request the inclusion of charitable giving provisions in any future coronavirus relief bill. 

Last year, Lankford wrote an opinion piece on the need to invest in our nation’s nonprofits as they helped meet the needs of many Americans directly impacted by the COVID pandemic.  

The bill is supported by several nonprofits including, National Council of Nonprofits, Charitable Giving Coalition, The Philanthropy Roundtable, Faith and Giving Coalition, United Way Worldwide, National Philanthropic Trust, Association of Art Museum Directors, The Nonprofit Alliance, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, American Red Cross, National Association of Evangelicals, Philanthropy Southwest, Council on Foundations, Independent Sector. 

In Oklahoma, Lankford’s bill has overwhelming support from A New Leaf Adult Volunteer Services, OU Health/The University of Oklahoma Medical Center Adult Towers, Allied Arts, Brighter Futures, Calm Waters, Canterbury Voices, Dillon International, Inc. Hearts for Hearing, HIS Daughters House, Hope Outreach, Hough Ear Institute, Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women, J127 Ministries, Limbs for Life Foundation, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, Meals on Wheels, NewView, Norman United Way, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Oklahoma City Ballet, Oklahoma Nonprofit Council, P’Light Society Jazzy Inc., R.I.S.E Program, RSVP of Central Oklahoma, Sunbeam Family Services, Sutton Avian Research Center, Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, Tri-City Youth and Family Center, United Way of Northwestern Oklahoma, United Way of Ponca City, and YWCA Oklahoma City. 

Here’s what a few national supporters are saying:

“Throughout the pandemic, all Americans have watched charitable nonprofits repeatedly rise to meet their communities’ challenges by providing support and relief to the people who need it most. We are proud to endorse the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act because it will enable all Americans to support the vital work of charitable organizations in helping their neighbors and communities as our nation recovers,” said Tim Delaney, President and CEO, National Council of Nonprofits. 

“Incentivizing all taxpayers to give to charity – regardless of their income or whether they itemize – ensures that nonprofits doing critical work in our communities will receive the resources necessary to help as many Americans as possible. The bipartisan and bicameral introduction of the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act signals Congress’ recognition of the importance of expanding the universal charitable deduction and therefore driving more donations to organizations when they need it most. The Charitable Giving Coalition applauds Senator Lankford and his colleagues for their leadership on the issue, and we look forward to working with Congress to enhance charitable giving,” said Brian Flahaven, chair of the Charitable Giving Coalition.

“The Philanthropy Roundtable supports the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act. In a time of national crisis, charitable organizations are facing increased needs and fundraising challenges,” said Elise Westhoff, CEO of The Philanthropy Roundtable. “This bill would encourage all Americans, including those who do not itemize on their tax returns to continue stepping forward to support our vibrant charitable sector at this crucial time.” 

“The Faith & Giving Coalition supports the introduction of the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act. We are grateful to Senator Lankford and his colleagues for their continued leadership to ensure that the charitable deduction's benefits and incentives are available to all taxpayers – not just the wealthy. Most important, the Act would stimulate the increased giving that is desperately needed to help hurting individuals and communities across America recover well from the pandemic,” said Brian W. Walsh, Executive Director, Faith & Giving Coalition. 

“United Way is appreciative of Senator Lankford’s reintroduction of the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act. The health and economic crises which have arisen due to COVID-19 will have far-reaching implications on our communities, and this legislation is a crucial step in enabling charitable organizations to address both the short- and long-term needs of Americans,” said Suzanne McCormick, US President of United Way Worldwide. 

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