Don’t panic. This is not the blogosphere equivalent of a chain email warning you that the US government is about to repeal the charitable tax deduction…unless you forward this on to sixteen congresspeople NOW!
Truth is, all signs point toward the charitable tax deduction sticking around for at least the foreseeable future.
But Jan Edmiston at A Church for Starving Artists asks: If the deduction were repealed…
“Would most of us give simply because it’s the right thing to do?”
I received a personal letter this week from a stranger who said that at a funeral in 2010, he greeted me and handed me $20 in cash to add to the memorial for the deceased. He would like a letter “for tax purposes” from me/the church.
Wow is right! And Jan’s question is right on, whether the charitable tax deduction is ever formally repealed or not.
Last November I did a post advocating that we give away an increasing percentage of our donations unreceipted and anonymously. I wrote:
Once you set your giving percentage for the year, set an initial percentage of that percentage (1%? 5%? 10%?) to give away anonymously and unreceipted…and then increase that percentage each year. Absorb the tax hit as part of the cost of giving in secret, consoling yourself by noting that charitable giving may not be tax deductible forever the way things are going, and you’re just getting a jump start on the training to be generous when the only reward you’ll get for your donations comes from your Father in Heaven, who sees what is done in the secret places of our hearts.
It’s a practice to which I find myself more and more drawn, and which took on special meaning yesterday in the first “Offering Sunday” at the new .W Evangelical Church congregation we’re planting simultaneously (via videoconference) in Colorado and Korea.
Rather than taking an offering each Sunday, we as a congregation prepare to make our offering once a month, on the last Sunday of each month. A month’s preparation has a way of keeping the offering from being a tip for services rendered (literally).
But what I’m most excited about with regard to our offering is that each member commits to offering a tithe, of which 30 percent is given to the church (with a third going to the church, a third going to our denomination’s regional conference, and a third going to the denomination) and 70 percent is consecrated at the altar…and then immediately received back again by each member, to be disbursed personally by that member as the church’s minister within his or her own sphere of influence.
70 percent of the tithe, in other words, is not tax deductible because it doesn’t go through the church. It’s consecrated at the altar and then given directly by the church member to those to whom the members learn to personally minister. (Training in giving embedded in service is a key part of what the church program is all about, even for the congregation’s children. Giving and serving should be done by the family jointly, after all.)
Lose the tax deduction, free yourself for philanthropy. It’s a trade we all ought to think about making.