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December 28, 2012 09:50 PM

Fiscal Cliff & Charitable Donations

Sioux Falls, SD

The end of the year has always been an important time for charities because people give in the last few days in order to take the tax deduction.

But the charitable tax deduction could be a casualty of going over the fiscal cliff.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions all year long.  But the end of the year always brings a flurry of donations.

"This is a very important time for charities, but also a fun time as gifts come in and we see how the year ends," Paul Krueger with Make-A-Wish said.

One reason for the year-end increase in gifts is because donors can take a deduction on their taxes if their donation is post-marked or received online by December 31.  If someone in the top income bracket gives $1,000 to charity, the government forgives $300 in taxes.

"I do think the charitable deduction is an incentive for people to give and to give more," Krueger said.

Krueger says people first give because they believe in the non-profit's mission.  But he has seen an uptick in year-end giving because donors are uncertain what is coming next from Washington.

"I think they know that this year they can take advantage of the deduction, so we have seen some gifts.  We've had a couple who called or emailed today planning to make gifts by the end of the year.  Maybe they do it regardless; but I think also in the back of their minds, 'Let's do this this year because we're not sure what will happen next year,'" Krueger said.

If the charitable tax deduction is a casualty of any fiscal cliff agreement, Krueger and other charities worry what that will mean for giving.

"Would they give at the same levels?  Would they be able to give at the same levels? I think that's the bigger question.    We're watching the fiscal cliff and what's happening carefully.  I'm an optimist and I'm optimistic that something is going to work out and we'll continue to see levels of support; maybe differently if some of these changes don't happen, or deduction doesn't continue. I'm confident we'll continue to grant wishes to kids in South Dakota. It just might look different," Krueger said. 

Krueger says he's written to all three members of South Dakota's Congressional delegation asking them to do what they can to preserve the charitable tax deduction.  And it's not just charities and churches that stand to lose.  Other non-profits including arts and education could be out millions if the deduction is eliminated.

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