After taking a look at the financial state of Americans, we were moved to reflect on the biblical passage that was literally the foundation of the Stewardship Foundation—the story of the good and faithful servant in Matthew’s Parable of the Talents.
The average American gross income is currently $71,258. That seems like good news until we realize that the average American household with a mortgage and other loans is $132,539 in debt, including an average $16,061 on credit cards.
According to IRS data for 2015, only 30% of Americans claim a charitable contribution deduction on their taxes. We might assume that some who didn’t itemize their deductions also gave, simply because Americans are generous to those less fortunate.
It’s good to remind our younger generation that they should carefully choose how they give. For example, only donations to qualified charitable organizations are deductible. If you’re not sure, we can verify this for you, or you can search for a charity on a site like Charity Navigator.
While handouts to the homeless or contributions to GoFundMe are worthy acts of charity, these are considered “personal gifts” and are not deductible. You may remember the 2015 news story about Casey Charf. While being treated in the hospital for a car accident, Casey’s doctors found she had a rare, seemingly incurable cancer requiring immediate treatment. The $50,000 she and her sister raised on GoFundMe triggered a $19,000 bill from the IRS.
When you give, keep receipts, even for cash. The same applies for payroll deductions should your employer run a charitable giving campaign. Remember too that if you receive something in exchange for your donation, whether a basket of goodies at a silent auction or a t-shirt, you have to deduct the fair market value of the incentive gift.
One of the most important charitable avenues often overlooked is giving appreciated assets. Donating property that has appreciated in value, like stock, can be highly beneficial. Call us if you want to explore how to receive a double benefit from donations of appreciated assets.
Do either our giving patterns or our own money problems, real or perceived, prevent us from remembering whose resources we’re managing? Are not our time, talents, skills, and health all tools to help us share with others, do good for others, and use them to glorify God? We exist to help others find the joy in stewardship in practical, financially beneficial ways, but also because it’s our credo and commitment to God.