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Bipartisan Group of Senators Works to Boost Tax Breaks for People Who Give to Charities

06-24-2020
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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), left and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). (Image credit: Untied States Senate

ABOVE: Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and James Lankford (R-OK) appeared on the Wednesday night edition of CBN News' Faith Nation to talk about how the group of senators is hoping to expand the charitable giving deduction made available in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Faith Nation airs weeknights at 9:00 on the CBN News Channel

With charities and non-profits seeing an increase in need during this unprecedented pandemic, a bipartisan group of senators is hoping to expand the $300 charitable giving deduction made available in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to incentivize more people to give.

For the tax years 2019 and 2020, The Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act introduced this week by Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would create "an above-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers)." 

"Nonprofits uphold Americans in our times of greatest need. Now it is time for Americans to uphold nonprofits in their moment of need," said Sen. Lankford in a joint statement. "Our families need strong nonprofits to meet their essential needs."

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Many non-profits and faith-based organizations are working harder than ever to help those in need during the pandemic despite steep declines in donations. The senators hope by increasing the federal tax deduction, more Americans will step up and donate to organizations and ministries that are meeting critical needs across the country.

"As we face three national crises—a pandemic, recession, and the wounds of structural racism—Americans have responded with a tremendous spirit of generosity," said Sen. Chris Coons in a statement. "People of all means are trying to help by giving what they can to help our nation heal and recover, but there's a divide among Americans who give. One in seven Americans saves their receipt for a tax deduction. The other six, typically of lesser means, do not. That's unjust, and it's ineffective. If more Americans were acknowledged for and supported in their donations, there would be more giving, period."

Senators Lankford and Coons originally introduced the bill in 2017 and tried to get it passed earlier this year as an amendment to the CARES Act but it was not adopted. In May, Senators Lankford and Angus King (I-ME) sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting any future coronavirus relief bill include expanded charitable giving provisions. 

Lankford and Coons also introduced the bipartisan Lessening Impediments for Taxes (LIFT) for Charities Act to protect churches and other nonprofits from "a provision in the 2017 tax law overhaul that would tax some employee benefits for the first time."

"This year of all year's we desperately need them (churches and nonprofits) to thrive," Lankford told CBN News' Faith Nation during an interview Wednesday with Sen. Coons. "Our safety net in the United States really has three elements. The family is the first safety net. Churches and nonprofits are the second safety net. And the third safety net is government. A lot of people look to the government to solve all of this. I would tell you that those of us in government understand there is no way to meet all of those needs unless we have healthy strong nonprofits..unless we have healthy strong families as well."

"So what we have proposed is to raise the deduction level for every American during this pandemic," Lankford explained. "Even if you don't itemize your taxes that you could give to a nonprofit of your choice. It's totally up to you. And that would reduce your taxes by that same amount." 

Coons said it's important to provide incentives for people all over the country to give back to our communities, including our houses of worship and our nonprofits.

"This provision that we have introduced has six bipartisan co-sponsors," the Delaware senator noted. "It would be worth up to $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for a joint-filing couple in a reduction of your tax liability is a strong incentive for individuals to give and support what makes America's communities great."

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