It’s okay, Pagans, take that charitable tax deduction

I had someone tell me that e did not believe that writing off charitable giving on the ol’ tax return is a particularly moral thing to do.  The argument, as I understood it, is that it makes the donation less sincere if you’re going to get some of it back.

I see things differently.

I said, "Duck!"Money acquires characteristics based on how it’s used.  I prefer using money that has been given freely away for most of my money work.  It’s got an aura of selflessness about it that can’t be found elsewhere.  There are other ways to acquire it, but duck.

Not all of the money that I give away goes to formal institutions that can provide the paper trail I need to deduct those donations on my tax return.  Some of it goes to people I meet on the street, or gets dropped in a collection box, or is otherwise untraceable, unprovable, inauditable.  There’s a Jewish belief that this sort of anonymous charity is one of the highest forms, and I don’t doubt that divorcing oneself from the credit carries some value of its own.

One curious detail about the discussion I had about tax deductions is the fact that my conversation partner doesn’t subscribe to the concept of anonymous giving, saying that it is not in keeping with eir understanding of Hellenic polytheism.  If you’re making an offering, don’t be shy about it!  That’s fine, but to then go on to say that it’s disingenuous to acknowledge the gift to the government seems almost like a return to anonymity, at least in my eyes.

Where I see the value in keeping track of my giving is in two main ways:

  • First, I have more money.  That means I have more money to give, if I get what’s effectively a rebate when I do it.
  • Second, I know what I gave last year.  Budgeting is important to make sure you’ve got money at the end of the month instead of the other way around, and the records also help me see if I’m giving more (which I’d prefer) year over year, or less.

Particularly if your tradition encourages public offerings to the gods, deems gifts to the poor as valid offerings, and sees abundance as some kind of flow, deducting the donations is a good idea.  Lucky me, my tradition has all three of those aspects.

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