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Food pantry blaming federal tax changes for drop in donations

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MADISON (WKOW) — The holidays are fast approaching, which means it’s the busiest time of the year for food pantries.

But one pantry in Madison says they’ve seen a big drop in donations this year.

“I’ve been working in this field for quite a while, and it’s been a year like one that I haven’t seen,” said Charles McLimans, CEO of The River Food Pantry.

McLimans says that the pantry was down $100,000 at the end of the third quarter.

“That’s approximately 10 percent of our budget,” he said.

The pantry is blaming the drop in donations on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in 2017. It changed the standard deduction for a single person from $6,350 in 2017 to $12,000 in 2018. (The deduction has risen to $12,200 in 2019.)

“The middle American family probably has a little bit of a disincentive to itemize at this point,” said Mark Farnan, a financial expert in Madison.

Farnan says the changes means most people aren’t itemizing things like charitable donations because they can save more money just taking the standard deduction.

“They don’t have the same incentive to give to charities and therefore take it off their taxes,” he said.

That’s putting charities in a tough spot.

“Really, it squeezes us,” McLimans said. “It means we have to work a lot harder.”

“There’s probably not a whole lot they can do,” Farnan said. “Of course, the economy is still strong right now, so I have a feeling people are still going to be generous with their giving this Christmas.”

The folks at The River Food Pantry are hoping that as well.

“This time frame is traditionally when we get most of our donations,” McLimans said. “We know that there are many generous people living in Madison. We’re hoping people will get inspired.”

Right now, the River is in the middle of its Help Other People Eat (HOPE) drive to help provide food for families this holiday season.

The changes to the federal tax code are impacting donations from middle Americans, but as 27 News reported earlier this week, many food pantries are receiving twice as much food from a federal distribution program, which you can read about here.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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