Could this couple have afforded to donate their old car rather than sell it if they could not get a reduction on their taxes? They tithe money to their church, but could they afford to give more out of their pockets? Maybe, but likely not.
Fortunately, they did not have to make this choice. They reduced their taxes because they could deduct the fair market value of their car from their federal taxes. They also received a state Neighborhood Investment Program tax credit for their donation. They were able to afford this generous gift, between the two benefits that are meant to encourage people to be a good neighbor.
Don't we want to be the kind of country that encourages our private citizens and businesses to help others by giving? The charitable tax deduction provision which allows that couple to donate their car is threatened by current negotiations in Washington. If that tax deduction provision disappears, I am almost certain the Good News Mountaineer Garage will close its doors.
Many of our donors give regardless of the tax benefits, but most cannot afford to give away their used car if they can't get some financial return for it, no matter how much they would like to do so.
Since 2001, the Garage has provided approximately 2,500 vehicles to low-income families and people with disabilities who want to work but can't because they do not have transportation. It is a huge life-changer that reduces people's dependence on public assistance. It improves the quality of their lives and gives them a chance to become hardworking, taxpaying people who support themselves and their children.
Our program has received national recognition. But here's the bottom line: We could not have gotten the program off the ground without the kindness of our neighbors. People often ask us how this program can work in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country. It works because of our state Neighborhood Investment Program, and it works because we are aware of the poverty around us.
People give because they care, but many will not be able to afford to do so if they can't get a break on their taxes.
Do we really need to discourage giving? Of course not. As we face cuts in federal support of many programs, we need to do the opposite and pull together. Doing away with charitable donation deduction is contrary to everything most people -- Democrats and Republicans -- want this nation to be.
Bayes is director of the Good News Mountaineer Garage, goodnewsmountaineergarage.com, or 1-866-GIVECAR (448-3227).