You don’t have to be wealthy to give to charity

When you hear that there are people in the 35 percent tax bracket, you may wonder what it means. It means their annual (adjusted) gross income is $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for couples.

For those who make a gift to a favorite charity, the 35 percent bracket also means that for every $100 they give, their taxes will be reduced by $35.
Faced with serious deficits, Congress is weighing a proposal that would cap that tax credit at $28 per $100 for wealthy individuals. There is plenty of debate about how this would affect charitable giving.

If Congress approves the cap, the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University says it might reduce giving by 2.3 percent over the next two years. That would mean charities across the nation will receive $3-5 billion less.This concerns all nonprofit.

They worry that they will have to cut local programs succh as provide job training, home care for the elderly, or health care for the uninsured. With more than 46 million Americans living in poverty, and many federal programs also facing budget cuts, that cost-benefit seems out of whack to most non-profit leaders.

Tax brackets aside, most Americans give to charities for other reasons. It is deep in our culture, a tradition born deep in our history. When he traveled here in 1831, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville noticed something remarkable. Americans, he said, never turn their backs on a neighbor in need. He saw people helping each other recover from floods, fires and other disasters.

Since Tocqueville’s visit, Americans have become more artful in the way they give. Today, many donors—even those not in the 35 percent bracket—aim their gifts at specific needs, and most nonprofits, from food banks to museums to job training programs, will welcome your questions about that idea.

Mike Robinson is Senior Vice President for Planned Giving at United Way of Pierce County. Please consult a qualified tax attorney before making a charitable gift.