Local nonprofits say they haven’t seen decrease

2018 tax plan changed charitable deduction guidelines

Tax reforms in 2018 were predicted to impact charitable giving after requirements for a deduction on taxes nearly doubled.

The standard deduction jumped to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly and as a result, the number of households itemizing their deductions was expected to drop from about 37 million to about 16 million in 2018, according to Fidelity Investments.

But Marietta Community Foundation President and CEO Heather Allender said she doesn’t think a major drop occurred.

“We may have just seen a change in how people are choosing to give,” she said, noting most charitable giving occurs in the final quarter of each year, making final tallies for 2018 not yet available. “We typically average in about $1 million from individual donors with charitable giving year to year and I think we’ll still be around there.”

But with the tax changes, the way people give is shifting.

“We have what’s called a donor-advised fund you can set up with us,” Allender explained. “So you can provide that whole sum to receive the tax benefit at the beginning of the year –or really anytime– and then throughout the year as you hear about causes or we hear about projects that you’d be interested we can direct dollars from your fund to those. You’ve given a lump sum donation to us as a charitable organization, but still have control over what we do with those funds.”

Allender said charitable giving from 2018 increased though, a trend supported by additional donations to the foundation.

“Our unrestricted giving where nonprofits applied to us for funding specific projects last year, we gave $165,000,” she said.

And where people give has remained constant, with top priorities in the interests of education, then health and welfare, followed by arts and culture, social services, youth development and recreation.

For other local nonprofits, giving was either not an issue this past year, or was on the rise.

“We had more donations both monetarily and in food and saw no negative effects whatsoever,” noted Jeff Waite, who with his wife Candy runs the Gospel Mission Food Pantry in Marietta. “We are a tax-deductible nonprofit and people are still giving. That’s the great thing about this community, it puts its people first.”

Amy Elliott, who is not only a member of the Marietta Welfare League but also works daily with nonprofits through her role as director of nonprofits LEAD at Marietta College, said nonprofits tried to better educate donors after the tax changes.

“The welfare league earns most of its money rather than getting it through donations, so it wasn’t hit by the tax change, but these tax changes did mean nonprofits needed to know how to better communicate with their donors,” she said. “Robin Stewart, the development director with Habitat for Humanity over in Vienna hosted a ‘lunch and learn’ a few months back so we could all learn what we need to be communicating to donors to ensure their support.”

Allender suggested that any large donations made be reviewed by an individual’s accountant to ensure the best tax benefits while giving.

“But what didn’t change were things like the IRA rollover and donating appreciated stocks,” Allender noted. “So any individual over the age of 75.5 may transfer up to $100,000 per year to a charity without paying federal income tax on that and in most cases when donating appreciated stocks the individual doesn’t have to pay the capital gains tax, but still consult with your accountant or financial planner on what works best for your investments.”