Report shows Md. cut giving to charity Taxpayers contributed 2% less in '94 vs. '93

August 17, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Maryland taxpayers are giving less to charity than before and the big earners here aren't giving as much as their counterparts elsewhere.

That's the word from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a newspaper for professionals in nonprofit organizations and published by The Chronicle of Higher Education Inc. In its Aug. 8 issue, it analyzed figures of the Internal Revenue Service on a state-by-state basis for 1994, the most recent year for which data are available.

Maryland taxpayers who itemized tax deductions for charitable contributions gave almost 2 percent less in 1994 than they gave in 1993, according to the Chronicle.

The Marylanders gave $1,879,623,000 in 1994, compared with $1,917,273,888 in 1993.

"Since 1989, charitable giving in the nation has been stagnant at best. The fact that Maryland giving is declining is cause for great concern since it comes as federal funding is cutting back on services charities provide," said Peter V. Berns, executive director of the Maryland Association of Nonprofits.

Fear among federal workers of losing their jobs may have been a factor in Maryland, he said. At such times, people give less.

Berns noted that the 1994 downturn followed recent years of increases. Maryland giving went up 6.64 percent from 1991 to 1992 and 8.13 percent from 1992 to 1993.

"The timing of the new task force on giving is great," said Berns, referring to creation by the General Assembly of Maryland Gives! Task Force on Charitable Giving. The group, which came into existence July 1, is charged with increasing donations in the state.

Larry Walton, president of United Way of Central Maryland, will direct the 19-member group, which is to report to the General Assembly and the governor by Dec. 1 on ways to increase giving.

"We are hoping for major breakthroughs from that task force to come up with strategies for dramatic increases in giving," Berns has said.

The 1994 figures showed upper income Marylanders gave less to charity than their counterparts in other states.

Marylanders making more than $100,000 in 1994 reported average contributions of $5,047, which ranked fifth from the bottom among all states in the average given by people at that income.

People giving less were those in Alaska ($4,634 in average donations), Hawaii ($4,708), New Jersey ($4,809) and Rhode Island ($5,025).

The big givers who made $100,000 and more lived in Wyoming ($18,421 in average donations), Utah ($14,436), Tennessee ($10,191), South Dakota ($10,071) and Oklahoma ($9,625).

Another finding in the 1994 IRS figures was that Maryland led the nation in the percentage of taxpayers claiming charitable deductions.

Almost 38 percent of Maryland taxpayers that year claimed such deductions. West Virginia, with 11 percent, ranked lowest. Berns said it may reflect the usual practice of people in higher-income states, such as Maryland, to itemize tax deductions.

According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, in 1994 Maryland ranked No. 5 in national per capita income.

The average amount given by Marylanders in 1994 was $2,129, which ranked in the middle tier of 30 states. Utah givers had the highest average in the nation, $4,293, much of it for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church. The church, which is based in Salt Lake City, practices tithing.

The lowest was in Rhode Island, with an average of $1,470.

Maryland taxpayers making less than $100,000 and reporting gifts -- 85 percent of the state's givers -- contributed an average of $1,641.

The Chronicle said all taxpayers who itemized represented only about 26 percent of taxpayers, "but those taxpayers, by some estimates, made well over half of all charitable donations."

Said Berns, "The general rule of thumb is that one-third of givers itemize, but they account for two-thirds of the contributions."

Pub Date: 8/17/96

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