Tag Archives: charitable deduction

Giving, When You Have a Lot to Give

The rich have always played a leading role in charitable giving. Now their role is getting larger. In fact, soon the middle class may not even have a speaking part.

The growing domination by the very wealthy in philanthropy is the central topic of the new report “Gilded Giving” from the Institute for Policy Studies. Authors Chuck Collins, Helen Flannery, and Josh Hoxie write how over the last decade a growing percentage of charitable giving in the United States has come from the highest earners. Over that period itemized charitable contributions by the top one percent have increased by 57 percent; itemized contributions from people making $10 million or more – essentially, the top tenth of the top one percent – are up 104 percent.

And what of the middle class, defined for the purposes of the study as families earning less than $100,000? The statistics are less definitive, because a significantly smaller percentage of middle- and lower-income taxpayers itemize their deductions. But for those who do, charitable donations have declined by 34 percent. The report also suggests that over the same period the number of low- and mid-range donations to national charities has declined by 25 percent.

So if we are to believe this report – and I tend to do so –  fewer people of modest and average means are giving to charity at all, while those who are still contributing are giving less. Continue reading

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“It’s Their Money.” Well, Sort Of.

There are occupational hazards to writing about philanthropy.

One is that when I make a critical comment about donors, I run the risk of being chastised for passing judgment. I’m told it’s none of my business how people choose to be charitable, that I should stop picking nits and simply honor their good intentions. The most frequent phrase I hear: “Remember: It’s their money!

But is it really their money? For most major donors, not entirely. Let me explain. Continue reading

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How Philanthropy (Strangely Enough) Can Widen the Wealth Divide

With the growing concern about the wealth gap, most of us can at least assume that charitable giving helps in some way to redistribute the wealth from the rich to the poor. After all, a central tenet of charitable giving is that those with financial resources donate to organizations that help those with fewer assets.

Unfortunately, we shouldn’t assume that that’s the case. I just read Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead  by Boston College Law School professor Ray D. Madoff, and the book pretty much blew me away. Don’t let the academic credentials of the author and the fact that it’s published by a university press scare you off: the book is wonderfully accessible, it’s not very long, and it’s worth every second you devote to it. Continue reading

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