Lankford introduces bill allowing for higher tax deduction to incentivize charitable giving


President and CEO of United Way Worldwide, Angela Williams, (left), Sen. James Lanford (center), and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons (right) celebrate the introduction of the “Charitable Act” outside the U.S. Capitol on March 1, 2023. (Gaylord News Photo / Gabriela Tumani

WASHINGTON – Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford (R, Oklahoma City) has introduced legislation to allow people who do not itemize on their federal income taxes to deduct charitable donations.

The “Charitable Act,” launched during a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol by Lankford and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, the legislation’s co-sponsor, along with leaders of the United Way, YMCA and Salvation Army on hand, will permit taxpayers who do not itemize to deduct charitable donations at up to one-third of the standard deduction.

An individual taxpayer’s adjusted gross income could be reduced by up to $4,500 a year, and the deduction would be up to $9,000 a year for a married couple filing jointly. The standard deductions for tax year 2023 are $13,850 for individual filers and married filing separately and $27,700 for married joint filers.

The bill, received with enthusiasm by a medium-size crowd on a springlike day just outside the U.S. Capitol, has also received support from such nonprofits as Goodwill Industries and the American Heart Association in addition to coalitions of thousands of nonprofits such as the Charitable Giving Coalition, the National Council of Nonprofits, Leadership18 and the Nonprofit Alliance.

Lankford said during the press conference that the bill is meant to encourage a greater number of Americans to give to those in need. He said the current tax code allows only those who itemize to receive deductions when donating to nonprofits. Most Americans take the standard deduction which last year was $12,950 for a single filer or $25,900 for a couple.

“There are lots of folks that are non-itemizers that give faithfully and would give even more if they knew it would be an offset there and they could engage with their taxes,” Lankford said.

When talking about the importance of serving and giving to the community, Lankford referenced the tornados that moved through parts of Oklahoma Sunday night.

“We’re very passionate about doing what we can to be able to help those that are around us,” Lankford said. “For all of us in Oklahoma, there are tornados that came through the state this past weekend and there are communities all over Oklahoma that are stepping up – churches, nonprofits, all kinds of communities (and) neighbors that are engaging to be able to help.”

Coons, a Democrat, thanked all the participating organizations and said he’s “thrilled” to re-introduce the bill alongside Lankford. He said is optimistic the bill will “find a path to the president’s desk.”

“This is exactly the sort of bipartisan effort that should make all of us proud to be Americans,” Coons said.

Angela Williams, president and CEO of United Way WorldWide, was one of the speakers during the press conference. She said United Way is “proud” to support the Charitable Act.

“Although tax policy is rarely the reason why Americans choose to support charities they believe in, making it easier and more affordable to do so can have a powerful ripple effect that will make our country and communities stronger,” Williams said.

Ralph Bukiewicz, national chief secretary at The Salvation Army, also took the podium to say those who support charitable programs have felt economic hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, evictions, lack of affordable housing and inflation, and that the bipartisan act will incentivize them to “continue helping others during these challenging times.”

Though Lankford said most of the giving in America “comes from the heart,” he said it is important to look at the impact the tax incentive will have on charitable donations.

“It does make a difference when people have the opportunity to be able to write it off on their taxes,” Lankford said. “They are incentivized to be able to give more.”


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