New tax law could impact charitable giving

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - The new tax overhaul signed by President Trump last week includes a near doubling of the standard deduction that millions of Americans claim on their income taxes. Along with extra savings for some, it's a way to make the tax process simpler with fewer people likely to itemize their taxes and needing to keep up with all the records and receipts that go with it.

This might have an impact on charitable giving since tax deductions are one incentive charities have to encourage you to donate.

Giving is in crunch time at United Way of Greater Knoxville. They're at 85 percent of their more than $13 million fundraising campaign for 2017.

"We'll see about 10 percent of what we normally raise will generally come in in the month of December," said CEO Ben Landers.

Landers says that number can ebb and flow depending on what's going on and things have been different the last few weeks of 2017. 

"We have not seen a huge rush and that's probably due to some confusion over what exactly is getting ready to happen in regard to the tax law."

Second Harvest Food Bank Development Director Aaron Snukals believes confusion is playing a role in end-of-the-year donations as well. 

"I guess what we're noticing is larger checks, not just a lot more, but the quantity seems to be bigger. Today we got a $5,000 check in the mail," said Snukals.

While there are questions and concerns about the Federal Tax Reform, accountants like Brandi Selvidge at H&R Block say, "You don't have to worry about any of that affecting your 2017 tax return."

The standard deduction for 2018 will increase to $12,000 for individuals, $24,000 for couples, and $18,000 for heads of households.

Selvidge says it's best to start planning now. 

"You need to talk to someone that you trust, a tax professional, because whether you do it yourself or you go to someone, this is going to affect everyone and it's going to affect everyone differently."

There are uncertainties on how it will impact charities.

"There's so much speculation that it changes almost everyday and so our official position is to wait and see," said Landers.

"We're not going to fall backwards. If we have to do an extra fundraiser, we're going to do it," added Snukals.

So many in East Tennessee ate thankful for the generosity we've seen and hope that it will continue.

"I still think folks from East Tennessee are going to give from their heart. We're the Volunteer State," said Snukals.

Accountants say if you're afraid you might not be able to itemize and get the maximum amount in 2018, you can pre-pay things like property taxes, medical expenses, and make bigger donations to charities. That way you can claim it on this year's return.

When it comes to charitable giving, you have until December 31 to make a donation. Accountants say after donating, it's best to keep a receipt, canceled check or bank statements when preparing 2017's tax return.

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