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Lankford Introduces Bill to Protect the Privacy of Charitable Donors

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Protecting Charitable Giving Act to address the unlawful disclosure of data identifying donors who contribute to nonprofit organizations. This legislation would help nonprofit organizations better protect the identities of their donors by reinforcing existing privacy protections and increasing the penalties for disclosure of sensitive taxpayer data.

“Nonprofits and their donors are an essential safety net for our communities—providing food, housing, and care to those who need it most. Oklahomans shouldn’t worry about their identities being made public after they provide a donation to a charitable organization. Millions of donors want to do something good without being recognized. We should honor their privacy as they care for others,” said Lankford.

“Anonymous giving has long been a way for Americans to support philanthropic organizations that rely on generous charitable contributions. In recent years, donor privacy has been threatened on too many occasions,” said Young. “This legislation will address the disclosure of donor data to better protect both charitable organizations and their donors.”

In an effort to verify the legitimacy of tax-exempt organizations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires these organizations to collect the names and addresses of all major donors. While the IRS collection form is public, the identities of the donors are considered sensitive information and are not subject to disclosure. States like California and New York have tried to force tax-exempt organizations to disclose donor information. The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that these efforts infringe upon First Amendment rights.

The Protecting Charitable Giving Act would modify penalties relating to the disclosure of donor information to better ensure donor privacy and protection. More specifically, this legislation would:

  1. Increase the penalty of willful disclosure of the identities of donors to tax-exempt organizations from no more than $5,000 to between $10,000 and $250,000.
  2. Expand the jurisdiction of prosecution to include the judicial district in which the victim of the offense resides to ensure all cases are subject to a fair trial.

The Protecting Charitable Giving Act is supported by Philanthropy Roundtable and Americans for Prosperity.

“Philanthropy Roundtable thanks Senators Todd Young and James Lankford for their tireless efforts to preserve and strengthen America’s federal donor privacy laws that protect the rights and freedoms of generous Americans to support the causes and communities they care about most. The Protecting Charitable Giving Act makes much-needed updates to the laws that protect charitable donors, and it grants new recourse to individuals or organizations whose private donor information has been leaked. Senators Young and Lankford understand that the right to associate with others who share one’s values and beliefs—and to do so privately—is vital to preserving the freedom that lies at the heart of the American experiment,” said Christie Herrera, President and CEO, Philanthropy Roundtable.

“American charities are the lifeblood of this country and protecting the privacy of Americans, so that they can give to those charities without fear, is crucially important. The Protecting Charitable Giving Act is commonsense legislation that protects the First Amendment rights of citizens, no matter which charities they choose to support. It sends a clear message to bureaucrats that they cannot invade American’s privacy without serious consequences,” said Brent Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity.

Full legislative text can be found here.

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