Survey: Taxpayers Want To Expand Charitable Deduction

Three-quarters of Americans are in favor of expanding the charitable deduction to taxpayers who do not currently itemize their taxes, according to a new poll commissioned by Independent Sector (IS). The deduction is currently only available to taxpayers who itemize their taxes, typically high-level earners.

The total includes 78 percent of those who voted for Hillary Clinton in November’s presidential election approving and 75 percent of those who voted for President Donald J. Trump giving a thumbs up. About a quarter (24 percent) of those surveyed voted for neither candidate, did not vote, or chose not to answer.

The poll, conducted by TargetPoint, surveyed 800 registered voters between March 6 and March 8. Among other questions, the poll also asked whether the voter approved of Trump’s performance to that point. Just over two-fifths (41 percent) either strongly or somewhat approved of Trump’s performance while about half (49 percent) either strongly or somewhat disapproved of it.

Jeffrey Moore, chief strategy officer, explained that the purpose behind the poll’s charitable deduction question was fairly straightforward. There is an assumption that tax reform is forthcoming and the goal is to have representatives prioritize charitable giving in the next tax code. Moore said that the survey results were what he expected, noting that it is rare that three-quarters of the voting public agrees on any sort of policy question.

IS has previously commissioned similar polls, such as one in early 2016 that revealed that 88 percent of the 1,300 voters surveyed were in favor of making it easier for individuals to deduct charitable contributions from their taxes. The present survey results, like survey results of the past, will be used to buttress assertions IS makes on Capitol Hill, according to Moore.

“If you think about the policy-making community, there are those who are going to pay deep attention to econometric modeling around these kinds of options and there are those for whom that kind of data is important, but they actually want to understand how the question plays politically,” Moore said. “They want to know how voters in their districts are thinking about this issue.”

IS is in the process of commissioning research around the economics of a universal deduction and other tax policy questions, added Allison Grayson, director of policy development and analysis. “We are specifically looking at how proposals around tax reform will impact charitable giving broadly,” she said. For instance, if another potential reform were to occur, an increased standard deduction, and there were many fewer itemizers, what would that mean for giving?

Moore said that it is important to be able to use both economic modeling and polling data in order to advocate and educate for what makes for good policy. The charitable deduction will be just one of several policies IS will be looking at down the pike, Moore said, but it will be the one of greatest focus.

IS’s Public Policy Committee is scheduled to meet again to strategize organizational advocacy efforts in April. This month, IS released its seven-point statement of belief on the federal tax code and spending as well as a statement on Trump’s proposed budget. The statement of belief has been valuable in guiding continuing policy efforts, according to Moore.

This story has been updated to reflect adjusted information from Independent Sector.