On Taxes and Giving Back

I have been talking about giving and philanthropy for a LONG time. Last night I did my taxes. It is a task I truly hate. It’s not the tax bill that bothers me, it’s navigating the process of pulling together three sets of returns – the US IRS and the states of North and South Carolina. I have to prepare two states’ returns because I work in NC, but am a legal resident of SC – the place of our retirement (my wife is already retired there).

While all the basic information reported is the same, I assure you the forms are not. Also, the right income has to be allocated correctly between the states. In other words, it is a pain. I am grateful for TurboTax, but it is still hard and very easy to mess up.

In any case, I pulled together the info for our charitable deductions. I knew it had been a busy year, but I had lost track. I organized every check and receipt and created two sets of piles: the first grouped by amount given (this simply helped me do the calculations) and the second by where we gave.

I was pleased to see that faith-based ministries – my church and the organizations close to the church, received the largest share of our giving.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was, a little. Then I sat back and said to myself: I want and need to do better in 2017.  Yes, it was a record year for our giving, but when I thought about what God and my faith has done and do for me, I want and need to do more.

I don’t consider it payback. My gift is not a transaction. It is, however, one way to say THANK YOU and show my gratitude for the Grace freely given to me. Then, I thought about what I want and need to do to live more in accord with the Gospel message – ‘…to love another as much as God loves us...” Giving all the money in the world does not mean it is ok to be cold-hearted.

So, I made a commitment to give and do more in the year ahead. Next year I am going to do the sorting and calculations again and feel frustrated with the tax preparation process, but I am going to add something different. I am going to review and document what I have done to try to live better and be a more faithful follower. This will be my “tax return” to God where I take account of myself and my faithfulness.

Today, however, I am going celebrate a little. Not about what I gave, but to give thanks I got my taxes done for another year.