LANKFORD: The Charitable Act Will Strengthen America by Rewarding Generosity
It’s springtime in Oklahoma, and we’re already seeing severe storms, flooding, drought, wildfires, tornadoes, and other natural disasters and emergencies where our families and businesses need our help.
Spring also brings the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing on April 19th. Out of the tragedy that claimed 168 lives, the Oklahoma Standard — always jumping in to give whatever help is needed — was born.
Over the years, my family has joined Oklahomans from all walks of life to live the Oklahoma Standard and clean up after storms, put together care packages for those in need, ring the Salvation Army bell, serve meals, pray with survivors and families, donate to our church and other nonprofits, and build homes with Habitat for Humanity. Like many others who live the Oklahoma Standard, we believe in living our faith by serving others.
Our families, churches, and nonprofits are the first safety nets Oklahomans turn to when they need help. Government can’t fill the emergency needs as quickly as our families, local churches, nonprofits, and charities can. The first person on an emergency scene isn’t a federal loan or grant officer; it’s first responders, neighbors, churches, and local nonprofits. They’re the first to meet the need.
According to data from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, Oklahoma nonprofits employ about 85,000 people. Oklahomans provide more than 94.5 million hours of volunteer time worth $2.2 billion. Oklahomans work to serve our nonprofits, and our nonprofits work to serve us.
Oklahomans and anyone in our nation who want to donate to charities, houses of worship, religious organizations, and other nonprofits of their choice should be able to deduct that donation from their federal taxes as an incentive to give locally to help nationally. Nonprofits are always more efficient meeting needs. Government often sends a check, while nonprofits send people and financial assistance. We’re literally stronger as a nation when our nonprofits are strong.
I introduced my charitable giving bill — the Charitable Act — to give taxpayers who don’t itemize their tax return a below-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction. This year, it would be around $4,500 for an individual filer and around $9,000 for married joint filers.
Our friends and neighbors are always ready to clean up after storms, and help feed and clothe the vulnerable in our communities or anywhere else a need arises. Oklahomans are always willing to give their time and their resources — whether it’s through a direct donation, offering to bring their truck, or loading up their power tools — to help others. I encourage all of us to give what we can and to teach the next generation the power of giving.
Any amount an individual or family can give helps our nonprofits and charities. Families should be allowed to give to meet the needs in their community and have a tax write off for their donation. The more we give locally, the more we can help the most vulnerable in our communities. I’m pushing the Senate and House to pass my bipartisan legislation, and I’m looking forward to making this incentive to give a reality.
James Lankford has served as a U.S. Senator for Oklahoma since 2014.