Tuesday, February 12, 2019

MassBudget: Why Top-Income Households Receive Most Tax Benefits from Charitable Deduction

MassBudget  Information.
 Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center  Democracy.
February 11, 2019

Why Top-Income Households Receive Most Tax Benefits from Charitable Deduction

BOSTON - Our Commonwealth does best when all people experience rising prosperity. But for several decades, the wealth and income of the top 1 percent of households has grown briskly while others have been left behind. While there are many reasons for this trend, one contributing factor is the way the federal tax deduction for charitable giving disproportionately rewards the giving of those with incomes over $1 million compared with donations made by moderate- and low-income tax filers.
While higher-income households have more money to give away - and therefore give larger dollar amounts to charity than households with less income - the benefits of charitable tax deductions remain heavily skewed towards top-income households, according to a new Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) report. The top incomes average 160 times more than those earning incomes below $50,000, but their average charitable deduction is about 1,320 times larger.
"In Massachusetts, taxpayers who have incomes over $1 million claim almost half of all charitable deductions, though they make up less than 0.5 percent of tax filers. Meanwhile, tax filers with incomes of $200,000 or less claim only 29 percent of charitable tax deductions," said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst at MassBudget and author of the report.
Why Top-Income Households Receive Most Tax Benefits from Charitable Deduction
Research shows high-income households do not necessarily give a larger portion of their incomes to charity than lower-income households. Some studies find that, in fact, low- and middle-income givers actually contribute a larger percentage of their incomes. A key reason the tax benefits for charitable giving are skewed toward high-income households is: charitable giving can only be deducted from federal taxes if they are itemized (listed in detail). 

Most low- and moderate-income taxpayers don't tend to itemize their deductions, instead they usually opt for the larger (and simpler) standard deduction. For most top-income households, the standard deduction is too small compared to the deductions they can claim, so the vast majority choose to itemize deductions and avoid taxation on a larger portion of their incomes.
Massachusetts does not currently have a charitable deduction for state income taxes but, if the state's income tax rate drops to 5.0 percent in January 2020 - as anticipated by the Department of Revenue and following policy triggers enacted in 2002 - then a state charitable deduction would kick in the following year. 

Adding a state charitable deduction would reduce revenues by about $300 million per year, leaving less money for education, public health, transportation, affordable housing, and other programs funded by the state budget.
"In Massachusetts' upside-down tax system, people with lower incomes pay a larger percentage of their incomes in taxes than top-income households. Adding a state charitable deduction on top of the federal one would make this system even more imbalanced," said Marie-Frances Rivera, Interim President of MassBudget.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.

BOSTON, MA 02108

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, 15 Court Square, Suite 700, Boston, MA 02108

Sent by mrivera@massbudget.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact

No comments:

Post a Comment