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Compare Your Charitable Giving to Other Contributors by Age and Income [2014 IRS Data]

When it comes to making gifts, US households are generous. The Giving USA Foundation estimates that in 2014 donations by individuals totaled $258.51 billion, which reflects a 7.1 percent jump from the amounts reported in 2013.

If you’re one of the kind souls who donate to charity, you might want to see how your household stacks up against others in the giving department.

Such a comparison can help you become a better philanthropist (to put it charitably).

For example, if you discover you’re lagging behind the average giving for your age or income, you might want to make catch-up contributions. On the other hand, if you find that your giving is above average, you might want to take extra care to document your donations because huge deductions tend to trigger IRS audits.

Statistics of Income Program

Each year, the IRS collects random tax returns and places them into broad categories called “strata.” There are strata for different income ranges, age groups, and filing statuses (single, married filing jointly, etc.). The IRS reports the resulting data in its Statistics of Income (SOI) program. The latest available SOI is for the year 2014 and reflects a massive sampling of 343,748 tax returns.

The SOI reports income as Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), which carries a particular meaning under the tax code. Basically, the AGI represents a taxpayer’s gross income from all sources minus certain defined reductions such as alimony payments and student loan interest. On Form 1040, the AGI appears on the last line of the first page.

Quandary: How to Present SOI Donation Data

In reporting charitable donations, the SOI draws solely from tax returns that contain itemized deductions. This makes sense. Non-itemizers don’t report donations so their tax forms don’t disclose anything about their level of charitable giving.

But even among itemizers, not everyone reports a deduction for gift making. Indeed, 17.61 percent of itemized returns in 2014 reported no charitable donations at all (7,744,054 out of 43,965,083 SOI returns, to be precise). See 2014 SOI, Table 2.1.

So here’s the quandary. I’m about to show you the average giving for various age and income groups. If I base those averages only on those filers who gave to charity, the resulting averages will be larger because they exclude noncontributing itemizers. If I instead use the data set of all itemizers—17.61 percent of whom reported zero contributions —the averages will be smaller.

My solution to this quandary is to provide you with two sets of results: (1) the average contributions of those itemizers who actually gave to charity; and (2) the average contributions of all who itemized, including the apparent skinflints who reported no gifts.

Instructions for the SOI Donation Tables

Table A presents average donations grouped in various ranges of AGIs. It’s easy to use.

  • Look up your AGI range in Column 1, then review the remaining columns for that specific row.
  • Column 2 reports the percentage of all itemizers in your AGI range who claimed a deduction for charitable giving.
  • Column 3 reports the average donations by those who actually gave something.
  • Column 4 reports the average donations by all itemizers including those who reported no contributions.
  • Column 5 reports the mean AGI for your AGI range.
  • Columns 6 and 7 report the average donation (columns 3-4) as a percentage of AGI (column 5) for: (a) actual givers (a higher percentage); and (b) all itemizers (a lower percentage).

Table B presents the same type of information as Table A, but is sorted by age groups instead of income ranges. Use it like you used Table A.

Table A: Average Donations by Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), Tax Year 2014

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Size of AGI By Income Range Percent of Itemizers Who Give Average Donation:
Givers Only
Average Donation:
All Itemizers
Average AGI By Income Range Givers Donation:
% of AGI
Itemizers Donation:
% of AGI
All returns 82.39% $5,814 $4,790 $145,234 4.00% 3.30%
Under $5,000 53.92% $768 $414 $2,435 31.53% 17.00%
$5,000-$9,999 58.19% $1,479 $861 $7,752 19.08% 11.10%
$10,000-$14,999 62.02% $1,678 $1,040 $12,575 13.34% 8.27%
$15,000-$19,999 67.72% $2,041 $1,382 $17,545 11.63% 7.88%
$20,000-$24,999 70.98% $2,275 $1,615 $22,543 10.09% 7.16%
$25,000-$29,999 72.38% $2,568 $1,858 $27,486 9.34% 6.76%
$30,000-$34,999 71.30% $2,585 $1,843 $32,569 7.94% 5.66%
$35,000-$39,999 73.98% $2,359 $1,745 $37,540 6.28% 4.65%
$40,000-$44,999 74.99% $2,586 $1,939 $42,505 6.08% 4.56%
$45,000-$49,999 74.37% $2,837 $2,110 $47,508 5.97% 4.44%
$50,000-$54,999 77.98% $2,804 $2,187 $52,456 5.35% 4.17%
$55,000-$59,999 79.17% $2,904 $2,299 $57,441 5.06% 4.00%
$60,000-$74,999 80.14% $3,050 $2,444 $67,547 4.52% 3.62%
$75,000-$99,999 82.78% $3,356 $2,778 $87,208 3.85% 3.19%
$100K-$199,999 88.00% $4,130 $3,634 $137,655 3.00% 2.64%
$200K-$499,999 91.91% $7,424 $6,824 $286,143 2.59% 2.38%
$500K-$999,999 94.38% $18,615 $17,568 $672,705 2.77% 2.61%
$1M-$1,499,999 95.59% $38,621 $36,919 $1,204,736 3.21% 3.06%
$1.5M-$1,999,999 95.99% $56,412 $54,151 $1,717,687 3.28% 3.15%
$2M-$4,999,999 96.49% $107,840 $104,060 $2,994,666 3.60% 3.47%
$5M-$9,999,999 96.99% $286,779 $278,156 $6,854,681 4.18% 4.06%
$10M or more 97.93% $2,191,570 $2,146,203 $30,560,655 7.17% 7.02%

Source: 2014 SOI, Table 2.1

Table B: Average Donations by Age,Tax Year 2014

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Age Group* Percent of Itemizers Who Give Average Donation:
Givers Only
Average Donation:
All Itemizers
Average AGI By Age Group Givers Donation:
% of AGI
Itemizers Donation:
% of AGI
All returns 82.39% $5,814 $4,790 $145,234 4.00% 3.30%
Under 18 16.61% $1,731 $287 $50,169 3.45% 0.57%
18-25 56.38% $2,184 $1,231 $54,453 4.01% 2.26%
26-34 68.40% $2,881 $1,971 $100,238 2.87% 1.97%
35-44 79.39% $4,152 $3,296 $143,848 2.89% 2.29%
45-54 83.55% $4,924 $4,114 $161,147 3.06% 2.55%
55-64 87.36% $6,434 $5,621 $160,176 4.02% 3.51%
65 & over 88.21% $9,086 $8,015 $141,741 6.41% 5.65%

*Age for joint returns is based on the primary taxpayer’s age.
Source: 2014 SOI, Table 2.6

Notes

1. All reported averages are mean averages (not median averages).

2. In both tables, Columns 3-4 reflect the total of both cash and noncash contributions. For the latest available IRS study of noncash contributions, which addresses tax year 2013, click here.

3. As reported in Columns 6-7 of Table A, lower-income groups appear to donate incredibly high percentages of their AGIs. A likely explanation: many taxpayers, especially retirees, have smallish AGIs but also enjoy high net worths that they generously share with charities.

*   *   *

The 2015 SOI will be released in late 2017. I’ll update the tables then. Meanwhile, if you’d like to explore other Frugal Fringe calculators, visit these links:

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