Charitable giving could decline

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Charitable giving could decline dramatically if either tax reform bill before Congress is enacted into law as currently written.

As the board chair of the American Red Cross Central and Mid Coast Maine Chapter, I am concerned how our ability to fulfill our humanitarian mission of helping people facing emergencies will be affected.

Across the nation, we respond to an emergency every eight minutes. No one else — not the government and not any other charity — does this. We rely on the generosity of the public, not the federal government, to be at the ready every day.

In the past fiscal year in Maine, we helped 1,025 people in 295 disasters; collected 51,018 units of blood; installed 3,194 free smoke alarms; helped more than 980 service members, veterans and their families; and taught lifesaving skills to 19,009 Maine residents.

Both the House and Senate tax plans remove the incentive for charitable giving for all but 5 percent of taxpayers by doubling the standard deduction. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates a $95 billion reduction in the amount of charitable gifts deducted by taxpayers will result if the House bill is enacted. Rather than 40.7 million taxpayers itemizing, the number would drop to 9.4 million taxpayers.

The Red Cross supports a universal charitable tax deduction that incentivizes all taxpayers. It could increase giving by up to $4.8 billion annually, said the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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The way forward is a policy that encourages philanthropy among more people, not fewer.

Rose Murphy, Brunswick, Board chair

Central and Mid-Coast Maine Chapter, American Red Cross

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