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Talking Tax and Philanthropy

April 20, 2010

Last week we all went through the annual ritual of doing our taxes.  One of the most interesting features of TurboTax is at the end, where it tells you how you compare to other taxpayers when it comes to income and deductions – including charitable giving.  How did you measure up?

President Obama and Vice-President Biden released their tax returns this week:

Aside from the Nobel award, the White House said the Obamas donated $329,100 to charity; their largest gifts were $50,000 contributions to CARE and the United Negro College Fund… The Bidens contributed $4,820 to charity, in both monetary and in-kind donations.

The Bidens’ giving seemed a bit low to me – but, they did make much less income than the Obamas – at $333,000 adjusted gross income, the Bidens made about as much as the Obamas gave away!

President Obama is the inspiration behind another tax proposal by Howard professor Alice Thomas to make volunteering tax-deductible.  We at SAPP have talked a lot about volunteering as a form of philanthropy – with Thomas’ step, tax law would see it the same way.   While it’s a good idea in principle, I’m not sure there is enough money in the budget to subsidize volunteering right now – and I wonder if volunteering would be harder to document/verify than giving in dollars or goods.

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