Fear of Fiscal Cliff Prompts Last-Minute Philanthropy

Did you rush to give -- and reap the tax benefits -- at the end of the year?


With the potential for changes to the charitable giving deduction, income and estate tax rates, some big philanthropists made 11th hour contributions to take advantage of the existing tax breaks, according to The Washington Post. Smaller donors -- old clothes and household goods in tow -- acted quickly, too.

Traditionally, wealthy donors make year-end donations, with many high profile people doing so in 2012. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave almost $500 million to a foundation; producer David Geffen earmarked $100 million for medical scholarships and publisher Mort Zuckerman added $200 million to Columbia University’s coffers.

Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy told the Post that “some people have accelerated their giving and are giving more, ready to get that tax deduction right away and lock it in.”

According to the Charity Navigator website, Americans gave $298 billion to charitable organizations in 2011, up 4 percent over 2010. Ninety percent of those donations came from individuals.

Maryland ranks 11th in the nation in terms of how much its residents donate of their discretionary income to charity, according to an analysis by the chronicle. Washington, DC, is in the top five of the nation.

One particularly wealthy area of the state, Potomac, had total contributions to charity of $139.7 million for 2008, the most recent year for which IRS data was available, but residents donated a smaller percentage of their income -- 4.4 percent -- than the state’s average. Montgomery County averaged 5.8 percent in the same time period.

In the Sykesville/Eldersburg area of Carroll County, residents give 3.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, slightly lower than the national average of 4.7 percent and the state average of 5.7 percent, according to a map of giving across the country published by the Chronicle.

Locally, WJLA reported that the Goodwill in Arlington was expecting about 2,000 cars to show up at the end of the year, bringing donations of everything from a few bags of items to trucks full of furniture. Kathie Miller, who was interviewed for the story, said she was “trying to make sure I get my stuff in here for tax purposes, but also because every year this time I go through my stuff.”

In North Carolina, the Salvation Army was seeing an increase of donations of $250 and higher, possibly due to the uncertainty over the possible adjustments to the tax code in 2013. Brittany Burton, marketing and development coordinator for the Salvation Army of High Point told the High Point Enterprise, “I would definitely say people are trying to get those donations in before the end of the year.”

In Maryland, Elise Lee, chief development officer of the United Way of Central Maryland, told Patch last year, “I think Maryland is a very, very generous state, I do. For those that can give, I think that Maryland continues to step up to the plate."


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