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Food Banks Count on Congress to Expand Charitable Tax Credits

PHOTO: Food banks say much of the produce left behind after a harvest would rot or be plowed under if farmers aren't allowed to deduct at least some of their costs of picking and transporting it for donation. Photo courtesy Oregon Food Bank.
PHOTO: Food banks say much of the produce left behind after a harvest would rot or be plowed under if farmers aren't allowed to deduct at least some of their costs of picking and transporting it for donation. Photo courtesy Oregon Food Bank.
November 10, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. - The future of some types of charitable deductions is on the line as Congress returns to work this week and an Oregon senator may hold the key.

Oregon Food Bank is one group awaiting action on the America Gives More Act. It's a package of provisions that includes reinstating federal tax credits for crop donations from farmers.

Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate with Oregon Food Bank, says the credits expired the end of last year and it's now up to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), to decide on their fate before the next tax season.

"We're concerned the uncertainty that has existed this far has already impacted food donations," says Kleen. "So, we're eager for Congress to get back to work and pass this food donation tax deduction."

He says Wyden has been a supporter of food banks and these deductions. The America Gives More Act already passed in the House this summer. Kleen points out that food banks are heading into their busiest time of year, and says about 60 percent of of the food distributed by the Oregon Food Bank Network is from the food industry.

Oregon already has a crop donation tax credit for farmers. According to Kleen, the federal tax deduction and the state tax credit don't overlap, but work together to help farmers compensate for the additional expense of harvesting and transporting crops they could otherwise plow under.

"What the America Gives More Act does is renews and expands a provision that particularly benefits small and medium-sized donors," says Kleen. "About 90 percent of the Oregon farms fit into that category."

The Act would also allow people to make charitable donations until April 15 for the previous tax year. But charitable deductions in general are getting more scrutiny in the debate about how to make the U.S. tax laws less complicated.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR