By WOBM Radio Morning News Anchor Vin Ebenau

Jersey Shore Republican Congressman Chris Smith spent the beginning of Tax Week joined by NJ charitable and philanthropic organizations as he advocates for his new bipartisan legislation to give taxpayers maximum flexibility to make tax-deductible charitable contributions.

“In the first tax year since the 2017 tax law was enacted, we’ve already seen reports of a decline in the number of donors to charitable causes,” Smith said. “We need to fix the tax code to help make charitable giving affordable for every taxpayer, and my legislation provides that remedy.”

Smith’s bill, the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act (H.R. 651)—cosponsored by lead Democrat Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX)—would allow charitable deductions to be universal and “above-the-line,” giving everyone the authority to deduct charitable donations from their taxes whether or not they itemize.

“Charitable organizations perform so many vital services for those in need, and we must ensure they have the necessary support to continue their work,” Smith said. “Restoring opportunities for tax-deductible charitable giving would assist soup kitchens, homeless shelters, recovery programs, and so many other worthy causes.”

Initial reports indicate that the total dollar amount of charitable donations in 2018 did not increase with the rate of inflation.

Large dollar donations are doing okay but there is concern that relying only on large donations is not sustainable, especially since there was a decline in both the overall number of donors and the number of donations less than $1,000.

Smith’s bill is now being celebrated by a number of New Jersey charitable and philanthropic organizations.

“The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers supports the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act introduced by Congressman Smith,” Theresa Jacks, Deputy Director of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, said. “By making the charitable deduction available to all taxpayers, H.R. 651 will help mitigate a situation created by the 2017 tax law that is expected to cause a significant reduction in charitable contributions. The nonprofit sector is critically important to our society and is a key driver of the economy. The universal charitable deduction bill that Congressman Smith is sponsoring would democratize giving for all taxpayers. This is common-sense public policy that will help nonprofits and the communities they serve, which in turn helps our state and nation to thrive.”

“As the 2019 Tax season comes to a close, many middle class individuals and families are seeing for the first time that their charitable donations may no longer provide the same benefit because of the provisions contained in the 2017 tax law,”James King of the Office for Social Concerns of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said.

“New Jersey Catholic Charities agencies assist hundreds of thousands of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. A substantial percentage of Catholic Charities operating budget comes from charitable donations. Now with the charitable deduction no longer a viable option for middle class individuals and families, non-profits like Catholic Charities could face unnecessary harm to their operating budget.”

“The New Jersey Catholic Conference thanks Congressman Smith for introducing H.R. 651, the ‘Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act.’ If signed into law, Congressman Smith’s bill would restore this tax benefit for the middle class and protect a vital source of revenue required for non-profits to sustain their operations serving those most in need.”

“Non profit organizations survive thanks to important donations from individuals,” Adam Philipson, CEO and President of the Count Basie Center for the Arts, said. “If donations are not recognized as above-the-line, itemized deductions it will discourage philanthropy. Congressman Smith’s Charitable Giving Tax bill restores the ability to receive those deductions and allows us to do the important work of not for profits.”

“The Center for Non-Profits is grateful to Congressman Chris Smith and Congressman Henry Cuellar for sponsoring H.R. 651, which would create a universal income tax deduction for charitable gifts,” Linda M. Czipo, President & CEO of the Center for Non-Profits, said. “The charitable community is vital to a vibrant economy and strong quality of life. Although more and more people are turning to charities for help, the funding needed by charities has failed to keep pace with this growing demand. With the increase in the standard deduction, the 2017 federal tax law has made this challenge even harder by drastically curtailing the number of taxpayers who can deduct their charitable gifts, resulting in a precipitous projected drop in giving.  H.R. 651 would address this dire situation by allowing generous taxpayers of all income levels to deduct their charitable donations. This important bill will help to strengthen the ability of charities to provide essential programs and services in our communities.”

“The New Jersey Alliance of YMCAs thanks Rep. Smith for his commitment to encourage and empower Americans to support their communities through charitable giving. We support his efforts to preserve and expand charitable giving, and applaud introduction of The Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act, H.R. 651,” Dr. Darrin Anderson, Executive Director of the NJ YMCA State Alliance, said.

“Not only is a universal charitable deduction a more fair and inclusive approach than current law, research has consistently shown that people give more when the tax code supports giving. The YMCA offers our support and is willing to work with Rep. Smith and other members of Congress to enact a universal charitable deduction that maximizes charitable giving.  America is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to give, to get involved, and to strengthen their communities.”https://wobm.com/congressman-smith-bill-seeks-to-give-taxpayers-more-flexibility-to-donate-to-charity/