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Tax breaks help boost corporations’ charitable giving: Report

Americans last year gave the second-highest amount of donations in history and corporations increased their charitable giving by more than 13% over the previous year, thanks partly to tax breaks and a strong economy, according to a report on philanthropy. In 2019, individual Americans gave $309.66 billion to nonprofits, and corporations donated $21.09 billion, according…

Tax breaks help boost corporations’ charitable giving: Report

Americans last year gave the second-highest amount of donations in history and corporations increased their charitable giving by more than 13% over the previous year, thanks partly to tax breaks and a strong economy, according to a report on philanthropy.

In 2019, individual Americans gave $309.66 billion to nonprofits, and corporations donated $21.09 billion, according to an estimate in the annual report from Giving USA. However, the study found that while overall donations have risen to a total of $449.64 billion, the number of people making donations has fallen continuously since the Great Recession, which started in 2008.

Researchers at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy who compiled the study attributed the increase in giving to higher pretax corporate profits and a higher gross domestic product.

“The economy going into this year was actually a strong year,” Una Osili, director of research with the Lilly Family School, said Tuesday in a press conference announcing the results.

The record-setting year was 2017, when Americans gave $427.71 billion in real dollars. Researchers factor in inflation when comparing years.

For 65 years, the Giving USA report has provided a snapshot of charitable behavior by Americans, which has chiefly been driven by individuals.

However, a federal tax overhaul in 2017 wiped out incentives for many low- and middle-income Americans to report charitable giving on tax filings, leaving corporations, foundations, bequests and wealthier Americans to fill in the gap.

Ms. Osili said the share of Americans who itemize tax returns has dropped below 10%, meaning the vast majority do not receive any IRS recognition for giving — if they are giving at all.

“Fewer American households are participating in charitable giving,” Ms. Osili said. “We call this ‘dollars up and donors down.’”

Nonetheless, individuals accounted for 69% of the overall dollars to nonprofits in 2019. Foundations represented the second-largest share (17%), donating $75 billion. Bequests (10%) and corporations (5%) made up the remaining significant sources of donations.

Although corporations maintain “visibility,” giving has historically been relatively low, researchers say. But strong performances in the stock market in recent years and the cutting of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% in 2017 — a signature piece of the tax legislation by President Trump and congressional Republicans — helped spur the donations, the Lilly Family School said.

Other characteristics of U.S. giving, including older Americans’ larger share of monetary gifts, remained relatively unchanged in 2019.

“I will say that the charitable giving environment continues to be dominated by the baby boomer generation,” said Laura MacDonald, vice chair of the Giving USA Foundation, who noted that boomers represent a large share of the population.

She also observed that social activism, including protesting and assisting at shelters, increasingly typifies charitable behavior of younger generations.

“There is less loyalty to an institution and more loyalty to a cause,” Ms. MacDonald said.

Recipients of charitable giving continue to be familiar pillars in American society such as religion, education and the arts.

Gifts to churches, synagogues and other religious nonprofits represented two-thirds of investments when the Giving USA report first took stock of philanthropy 65 years ago, but researchers say only 29% ($128.17 billion) of gifts went to religious causes in 2019.

One distinction about gifts to religious organizations is that they represent an economically, racially and ethnically diverse population.

“Giving to religion tends to be more democratized,” said Rick Dunham, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation. “You do see fairly high participation rates among high-income strata, but in one of our studies, lower-income households … are actually some of the more generous.”

One sector with a small decrease in gifts was international affairs, which declined 2.2 percentage points to 6% of overall giving.

“We’ve had a number of domestic crises in the last few years,” said Ms. Osili, noting natural disasters and other events “within our national border” that drew attention.

Giving in America has grown threefold in 40 years since roughly $150 billion — in inflation-adjusted funds — was donated in 1979.

Giving USA said it bases its estimates of giving on tax data, economic indicators and demographics.

Predictions for next year’s report are difficult as the economy muddles through a recession with jobless claims high as states begin to reopen after lockdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Giving is always contextualized,” said Mr. Dunham. “It doesn’t sit in isolation.”

Researchers noted that the GDP grew by 4.1% in 2019 and personal income grew by 4.4%, mirroring trends in charitable handouts. In the first quarter of 2020, GDP turned upside down, decreasing at an annual rate of 4.8%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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France to boost military presence in eastern Mediterranean |NationalTribune.com

France will boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean amid an escalating standoff between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters. France will send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate ‘Lafayette’ to the region as part of plans to increase its military presence, the armed forces ministry said…

France to boost military presence in eastern Mediterranean |NationalTribune.com

France will boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean amid an escalating standoff between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters.
France will send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate ‘Lafayette’ to the region as part of plans to increase its military presence, the armed forces ministry said on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the situation in the eastern Mediterranean “worrying”, and urged Turkey to stop its “unilateral” prospecting and “allow a peaceful dialogue” between the neighbouring NATO members.

“I have decided to temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners, including Greece,” Macron said on Twitter on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the French military conducted training exercises with Greek forces off the southern island of Crete, Greek defence sources told Reuters news agency, as the first manifestation of Macron’s support.
“Emmanuel Macron is a true friend of Greece and a fervent defender of European values and international law,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted, in French, after a call with the French president.
The dispute
Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, vehemently disagree over overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands. The gas-rich waters of the region are also a frequent source of dispute between Turkey, Cyprus and Israel.
The Ankara-Athens dispute escalated this week when Turkey dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
Greece also deployed warships to monitor the vessel, which is currently sailing west of Cyprus.
Macron’s office, in a statement, said France’s increased military presence in the region was aimed at monitoring the situation and marked Paris’ “determination to uphold international law”.

Last month, the French leader called for EU sanctions against Turkey for what he described as “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters. Relations between Paris and Ankara have also frayed over the conflict in Libya.
‘Risk of an accident’
Mitsotakis in a statement urged Turkey to show “sense” and warned the showdown in the eastern Mediterranean could lead to a military accident.
“We are vigilantly looking forward to sense prevailing, at last, in our neighbouring country so that dialogue may be re-initiated in good faith,” the prime minister said. “The risk of an accident lurks when so many military assets are gathered in such a contained area.”
Athens would not seek to escalate the situation, he said, but added: “No provocation will though go unanswered.”
Hulusi Akar, the Turkish defence minister, echoed the sentiment in an interview with the Reuters news agency.
“We want to reach political solutions through peaceful means in line with international laws,” he said, but warned Turkey would continue to defend its “rights, ties and interests” in coastal waters.
Turkey says it has the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean but it is penned into a narrow strip of waters due to the extension of Greece’s continental shelf, based on the presence of many Greek islands near its shore.

Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis is escorted by Turkish Navy ships as it sets sail in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya, Turkey, August 10, 2020 [Turkish defence ministry handout via Reuters]

The island of Kastellorizo, which is about 2km off Turkey’s southern coast and 570km from the Greek mainland, is a particular source of Turkish frustration.
“Greece’s demand for a 40,000 square kilometre maritime jurisdiction zone because of the 10km square Meis island [Kastellorizo] … cannot be reconciled with any logic,” he said.
Greece’s claim to the waters around Kastellorizo is based on a UN maritime convention endorsed by many countries, but not Turkey.
Ankara said it would issue new exploration and drilling licences in the eastern Mediterranean, while Athens has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Oruc Reis from the area.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was due to fly to Israel on Thursday for talks, his office said, and will also address the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Vienna on Friday.
EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc’s foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday to discuss the eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon and Belarus.
Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said NATO members were increasingly worried about the potential for a confrontation between Greece and Turkey. 
“Nobody wants to go to war. Nobody wants to see two NATO members mix it up,” he told Al Jazeera. “On the other hand, when you have this many naval vessels, when tensions are this high … things are in a dangerous place.”
Noting the diplomatic scramble to defuse tensions, Kupchan said: “In some ways, you are seeing an all hands on deck diplomatic response … And I think the French are trying to say hold on, we are going to try to cool the temperature here before things get out of hand.”
A similar crisis last month was averted after Turkey pulled the Oruc Reis back to hold talks with Greece and rotating EU chair Germany.
But the mood soured last week after Greece and Egypt signed an agreement to set up an exclusive economic zone in the region. The Turkish foreign ministry has said the Greece-Egypt agreement was “null and void”.
Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have likewise denounced a contentious deal, including a security agreement, signed last year between Ankara and the UN-recognised government in Libya.
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