Friday, February 4, 2011

VITA preparers are awesome even when they are not preparing tax returns

Sarah Yergeau was an awesome VITA student in my Eco 391 Tax Policy and Practice service-learning class last year. She is spending this year as a Minerva Fellow teaching English and math in an elementary school in Uganda. Her blog is here.

Sadly, the children in her school spend years studying English but have no actual books to read, so Sarah has constructed a "Wish List" of classroom sets books she would like to collect and leave behind at the school as a legacy for years to come.

As I read over her wish list, I saw many familiar and fondly remembered family favorites: Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, and Dr. Seuss. If you are near Union College, you can drop off donated books at Dean McEvoy's office. You can also donate cash via PayPal. Details are here.

To answer the inevitable question: I do not see any evidence on the website that donations are tax deductible. (That is not surprising, since completing the paperwork for a tax deductible project is daunting, especially if you are in Uganda.)

However, it still sounds like a wonderful cause--and one that is near and dear to my heart, since my dearly beloved dad was a librarian, so I didn't let the lack of deductibility deter me from making a donation.

[Parenthetical obligatory tax policy note: there is a rich and fascinating economics literature on elasticity of charitable giving with respect to the tax deduction. It turns out that low-income taxpayers give a larger percentage of their income to charitable causes than the rich, despite the lack of any tax incentives to do so. For a recent survey of this literature and some intriguing empirical evidence from a field experiment, see here.]

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