WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act to expand the current above-the-line deduction for charitable giving made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March. The bill, cosponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), would ensure that Americans who donate to charities, houses of worship, religious organizations, and other nonprofits are able to deduct that donation from their federal taxes at a higher level than the current $300 deduction.
Specifically, the bill would make available—for tax years 2019 and 2020—an above-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers).
“As we face three national crises—a pandemic, recession, and the wounds of structural racism—Americans have responded with a tremendous spirit of generosity,” said Coons. “People of all means are trying to help by giving what they can to help our nation heal and recover, but there’s a divide among Americans who give. One in seven Americans saves their receipt for a tax deduction. The other six, typically of lesser means, do not. That’s unjust, and it’s ineffective. If more Americans were acknowledged for and supported in their donations, there would be more giving, period. That’s why I am proud to support the Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act to substantially increase the 2020 emergency charitable giving incentive, to adequately reflect the magnitude of goodwill that so many are showing, and many others are capable of as we work to overcome these crises together.”
“Nonprofits uphold Americans in our times of greatest need. Now it is time for Americans to uphold nonprofits in their moment of need,” said Lankford. “Our families need strong nonprofits to meet their essential needs. They are the private safety net before the public safety net. Our nation’s charities help millions of people both in Oklahoma and across the nation access food, shelter, clothes, employment assistance, and mental and physical health services without forcing them to wait on the government. This proposal incentivizes additional giving during a time of crisis in our nation. I am proud of the incredible work our bipartisan group of senators has done to help ease the federal tax burden for those who give to charities.”
“The Coronavirus continues to disrupt all of our lives, but it also presents three unique challenges to our nation's charitable organizations,” said Lee. “First, charitable organizations that help our most vulnerable communities are seeing increased demand for their services. Second, the virus has complicated how these organizations deliver their services. And third, most charities have suffered a decline in donations as Americans have felt the financial pain of less work and unemployment. Congress can help by allowing all taxpayers to claim a greater portion of the charitable deduction for tax years 2019 and 2020. This would help more Americans donate to charitable organizations.”
“COVID-19 has once again demonstrated how important non-profit and faith-based services are to our communities,” said Shaheen. “Since day one, non-profit organizations have been working tirelessly to help those in need despite steep declines in donations. Congress has the power to encourage charitable giving through the tax code to make sure these organizations have the resources they need to continue their vital work and weather the financial challenges they face. I’m glad to partner with Senator Lankford and this bipartisan coalition to create an above-the-line deduction for all charitable contributions. This is a common-sense measure that Senate Leadership should act on quickly.”
“Earlier this year as the CARES Act was being drafted, I worked with my Senate colleagues to ensure non-profits and churches would receive support,” said Scott. “Thankfully, a new above-the-line charitable giving deduction was created to foster additional giving. I am glad to continue working with my colleagues on this issue to increase this deduction and ensure our nation’s non-profits continue receiving the support they so badly need, especially during this difficult time.”
“Nonprofits are on the front lines of this crisis, but as demand for their services soars, many of these organizations are struggling to keep their doors open,” said Klobuchar. “This bill will expand the universal tax deduction for charitable giving to help nonprofits continue to serve their communities during the pandemic.”
In addition to its initial introduction in 2017, Coons and Lankford previously introduced the bill as an amendment to the CARES Act. Although the amendment was not adopted, the CARES Act did provide a charitable tax deduction of up to $300 from federal tax liability.