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How Much Do U.S. Taxpayers Give to Charities?

How Much Do U.S. Taxpayers Give to Charities?

The amount estimated to be donated by the average taxpayer in the U.S. sums up to at least $500 per month. According to the research done on the subject in 2017, there were over 37 million filed tax returns. As of now, though, that amount will be well over a thousand dollars, as lots of contributions made for charitable causes are not always indicated in tax returns.

Also, this amount depends on the income bracket. People who earned between $100,000 and $200,000 gave an average of $4,371 to charity, while those who earned higher than $200,000 gave an average of $22,484 annually. Even those in the lowest income bracket still give to charity about $1,550 annually. 

Incentives for charitable giving by individuals

For individuals who give to a charitable cause, there are substantial deductions on their overall taxable income to support the cost of making those donations. As of 2018, an estimated $299 billion was given to charity, which resulted in a subsequent $44 billion loss in annual revenue.

Itemized charitable donations.

Only individuals who itemize their charitable donations when filing their tax returns will get the allocated tax deductions. According to the Tax Policy Centre for Urban Bookings, charitable giving for 2020 was estimated to reach a high of $324 billion. Also, records show that about ninety per cent of individuals donating to charity do not itemize them under their list of tax deductibles. These people account for forty percent of the charitable donations.

Charitable giving according to income bracket.

Higher earning taxpayers are often given a higher subsidy on their charitable donations than other taxpayers. They are more likely to itemize their donations under their tax deductibles than others would, and they are often taxed higher.

What charitable donations are costing the state in revenue.

For every tax deduction made concerning charitable donations, a corresponding loss in revenue is accrued. In 2020 alone, an estimate of $44 billion was lost through tax deductions on charitable contributions. Also, there are policy implications as a result of these deductions.

To illustrate, assuming the total amount deducted from tax due to charitable donations is greater than the amount donated, this would imply, in a contrast, that funds were channeled to the donors rather than to those the charities were for. Congress might consider striking out these deductions on the donations and instead provide the charity organizations with direct federal aid.

With this in mind, several proposals have been made to allow deductions such that only donations exceeding a certain threshold get deducted from the donating individual’s taxable income. The criterion proposed was to tax the last dollars rather than the first dollars of donation. A study revealed that the first dollars donated respond less to tax incentives than the last dollar, but these studies are not extensive, therefore, cannot be used to draw a definite conclusion.

Restrictions on tax deductions for charitable donations.

Before a charitable donation can be deducted from a donor’s taxable income, it must meet the following criteria, as stipulated by the U.S. Congress.

  • Tax deductions can only be made on donations made to organizations that are exempt from tax due to their charitable cause, according to section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.

  • Donations made to individuals can be assigned as much as sixty percent of the donor’s income. In comparison, donations made to a foundation or some other organization get a thirty percent allocation and donations made for capital gain properties. Donations made to corporations get a maximum share of ten percent of the donor’s gross taxable income.

  • Donations made to organizations like commercial firms or unions, which are tax-exempt, but are not charitable in an objective, will not be deducted from the donor’s taxable income.


So, this wraps it up concerning donations made to charities in the United States. It is clear that while the cause is a good one, the state can stand the risk of losing revenue if some measures are not put in place.



Pat Raskob
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