In 1999, Minnesota had the honor of being the first state to pass a state-level tax deduction for non-itemizers. Legislators included the Charitable Giving Tax Relief Act in the 1999 omnibus tax bill and it is now permanently part of the Minnesota tax code.
Two years of energeic efforts on the part of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, its members and engaged citizens led to this landmark legislation. Passage of the law makes Minnesota the first state in the nation to give taxpayers who are non-itemizers a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Calls, letters, meetings with legislators and public testimony demonstrated to elected officials that Minnesotans care about tax fairness and incentives for charitable giving.
The Charitable Giving Relief Act provides a 50 percent tax deduction for non-itemizers for charitable contributions over $500. After a non-itemizer donates $500 to any one or any combination of charities, any additional contributions to eligible charities will tap the 50 percent deduction. Any 501(c)(3) organization is eligible, including all public charities and churches/faith organizations.
Chief sponsors of the bill included Representative Tim Pawlenty and Senator John Hottinger. Other legislators who were outspoken in their commitment to the non-itemizer deduction included Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, Representative Ann Rest, Senator Steve Murphy, Senator Dick Day and Senator Bill Belanger.
Nonprofits appreciated strong media coverage and support for the Act, including editorials in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune. The goals of the campaign for the Charitable Giving Relief Act were to increase tax fairness and revenues for nonprofits. Now that the bill is part of the permanent tax code, nonprofits are urged to work with their donors, volunteers, members and communities to ask them to give more generously and take advantage of this tax benefit.