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Compare Your Charitable Giving to Other Contributors by Age and Income [2015 IRS Data]

When it comes to making gifts, US households are generous. The Giving USA Foundation estimates that in 2016 donations by individuals totaled $390.05 billion, which reflects a 2.7 percent increase from the amounts reported in 2015.

If you’re a kind soul who donates 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 pesky 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 2015 and reflects a massive sampling of 338,857 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 charitable giving.

But even among itemizers, not everyone reports a deduction for gift making. Indeed, 18.78 percent of itemized returns in 2015 reported no charitable donations at all (8,368,302 out of 44,567,263 SOI returns, to be precise). See 2015 SOI, Table 2.1.

So here’s my 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 reported giving to charity, the resulting averages will be larger because they exclude noncontributing itemizers. If I instead use the data set of all itemizers—18.78 percent of whom listed zero contributions —the averages will be smaller.

My solution to this quandary is to provide you with both sets of results: (1) the average contributions of those itemizers who actually reported charitable gifts; and (2) the average contributions of all who itemized, including those who failed to report any 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 2015

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Size of AGI By Income Range % of Itemizers Reporting Gifts Average Donation: Givers Only Average Donation:   All Itemizers Average AGI By Income Range Givers’ Donation as % of AGI Itemizers’ Donation as % of AGI
All returns 82.18% $6,058 $4,978 $150,155 4.03% 3.32%
Under $5,000 58.84% $742 $436 $2,444 30.35% 17.86%
$5,000-$9,999 58.79% $1,402 $824 $7,684 18.24% 10.72%
$10,000-$14,999 63.95% $1,893 $1,211 $12,582 15.05% 9.62%
$15,000-$19,999 69.85% $2,186 $1,527 $17,545 12.46% 8.70%
$20,000-$24,999 68.58% $2,472 $1,695 $22,523 10.97% 7.53%
$25,000-$29,999 72.31% $2,656 $1,921 $27,523 9.65% 6.98%
$30,000-$34,999 70.86% $2,640 $1,871 $32,533 8.12% 5.75%
$35,000-$39,999 71.54% $2,800 $2,003 $37,476 7.47% 5.35%
$40,000-$44,999 73.40% $3,008 $2,208 $42,503 7.08% 5.19%
$45,000-$49,999 74.34% $2,799 $2,081 $47,552 5.89% 4.38%
$50,000-$54,999 77.19% $2,881 $2,224 $52,496 5.49% 4.24%
$55,000-$59,999 79.09% $2,830 $2,238 $57,480 4.92% 3.89%
$60,000-$74,999 78.68% $3,125 $2,458 $67,457 4.63% 3.64%
$75,000-$99,999 82.91% $3,528 $2,925 $87,215 4.04% 3.35%
$100K-$199,999 87.54% $4,188 $3,666 $138,268 3.03% 2.65%
$200K-$499,999 91.44% $7,469 $6,830 $285,604 2.62% 2.39%
$500K-$999,999 94.00% $18,092 $17,007 $674,209 2.68% 2.52%
$1M-$1,499,999 95.25% $38,670 $36,834 $1,205,762 3.21% 3.05%
$1.5M-$1,999,999 95.62% $56,261 $53,799 $1,722,321 3.27% 3.12%
$2M-$4,999,999 96.45% $107,479 $103,663 $2,982,207 3.60% 3.48%
$5M-$9,999,999 97.01% $289,217 $280,580 $6,831,842 4.23% 4.11%
$10M or more 97.96% $2,155,963 $2,111,957 $30,099,644 7.16% 7.02%

Source: 2015 SOI, Table 2.1

Table B: Average Donations by Age,Tax Year 2015

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Size of AGI By Age Group* % of Itemizers Reporting Gifts Average Donation: Givers Only Average Donation:   All Itemizers Average AGI By Income Range Givers’ Donation as % of AGI Itemizers’ Donation as % of AGI
All returns 82.18% $6,058 $4,978 $150,155 4.03% 3.32%
   < 18 19.82% $2,412 $478 $38,512 6.26% 1.24%
   18-25 55.42% $2,545 $1,410 $56,354 4.52% 2.50%
   26-34 68.20% $3,133 $2,137 $104,121 3.01% 2.05%
   35-44 78.52% $4,414 $3,466 $148,281 2.98% 2.34%
   45-54 83.56% $5,222 $4,364 $170,132 3.07% 2.56%
   55-64 86.95% $6,526 $5,675 $165,307 3.95% 3.43%
   65 and over 88.43% $9,204 $8,139 $143,820 6.40% 5.66%

*Age for joint returns is based on the primary taxpayer’s age.
Source: 2015 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 2014, 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 2016 SOI will be released in late 2018. I’ll update the tables then. Meanwhile, if you’d like to explore other Frugal Fringe calculators, visit these links:

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