WASHINGTON — If you’re one of those people who claims the standard deduction and doesn’t itemize on tax returns, you can still take a write-off for up to $300 in contributions to Feeding America as part of Patch’s Holiday Food Drive.
Under special tax law changes made earlier this year, cash donations made to certain charities responding to the coronavirus crisis, including Feeding America, through the end of the year are now deductible when people file their taxes in 2021.
Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, says up to 50 million people, including 17 million children, could be facing hunger and food insecurity because of the pandemic.
To put that into perspective, about 35 million people in the United States struggled with hunger in 2019, according to the latest report on household food insecurity by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Households with children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. Before the pandemic, more than 10 million children lived in food-insecure households.
Feeding America projects the food insecurity rate has jumped significantly in Washington. In King County, they expect 13.4 percent of residents are at risk of going hungry, up from 9.5 percent in 2018. Pierce County is a similar story, at 16.5 percent food insecurity, up from 11.8 percent two years ago.
The special $300 deduction was authorized last spring under the CARES — Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — Act. That’s an addition to the standard deduction — in the 2020 federal income tax year, that’s $12,400 for single filers and $24,800 for those married and filing jointly.
“Our nation's charities are struggling to help those suffering from COVID-19, and many deserving organizations can use all the help they can get,” Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a news release. “The IRS reminds people there's a new provision that allows for up to $300 in cash donations to qualifying organizations to be deducted from income. We encourage people to explore this option to help deserving tax-exempt organizations — and the people and causes they serve.”
The IRS says nearly nine in 10 taxpayers currently take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify for the new tax deduction. In tax-year 2018, the latest year for which complete figures are available, more than 134 million taxpayers claimed the standard deduction, just over 87 percent of all filers.
Under the new change, individual taxpayers can claim an “above-the-line” deduction of up to $300 to cash donations to qualifying charities in 2020. This means the deduction lowers both gross income and taxable income — translating into tax savings for those making donations to the qualifying tax-exempt organization.
Other qualifying organizations can be found by using the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on IRS.gov to make sure the organization is eligible for tax-deductible donations.
Cash donations include those made by check, credit card or debit card. The IRS reminds those seeing the charitable deduction to retain records related to the contributions — such as a receipt or acknowledgment letter from the charity — and keep canceled checks or credit card receipts.
The CARES Act also made other provisions to help charities during the pandemic. These include higher charitable contribution limits for corporations, individuals who itemize their deductions, and businesses that give food inventory to food banks and other eligible charities. For more information about these and other coronavirus-related tax relief provisions, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus.
The Patch Holiday Food Drive continues through Dec. 31. For every $1 you give, Feeding America can supply 10 meals.
Many of the families experiencing food insecurity don’t qualify for federal nutrition programs, and they need to rely on their food banks and other hunger relief organizations to have enough to eat, according to Feeding America.
Patch and Feeding America teamed last summer to address the growing hunger crisis in America, connecting readers with the organization’s 200 member food banks that serve 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, and providing an easy way to donate money to help their neighbors.
Feeding America says that 80 percent of its food banks — or 4 in 5 — are serving more people than they were at the same time last year. With the pandemic worsening during the holiday season, many people who never before worried about how they’d pay for a holiday meal are turning to food banks for the first time.
From the beginning of the pandemic in March, Feeding America distributed 4.2 billion meals — enough to provide every U.S. resident with breakfast, lunch and dinner for just over four days.
In the first four months of the pandemic, 4 in 10 people were first-time visitors to food banks, according to Feeding America.
How To Support The Patch Holiday Food Drive
Patch has teamed with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2020, more than 50 million Americans will not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you.