Only marginal drop in tax-deductible donations in S'pore in 2020 despite pandemic

SINGAPORE – Despite the massive economic fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic which left many charities reeling, tax-deductible donations fell only marginally last year (2020).

Charities that are Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) received $1.01 billion in tax-deductible donations last year, 0.2 per cent less than the $1.02 billion in 2019.

Individuals gave more money than companies last year, reversing the situation in 2019 when firms gave more than the men in the street.

The data is contained in the Commissioner of Charities 2020 Annual Report, which was released on Oct 12. Mr Desmond Chin is the Commissioner of Charities.

Last year, individuals gave $515.2 million in tax-deductible donations, while companies donated $497.6 million.

IPCs in the social and welfare sector pulled in the lion’s share, or 45 per cent, of the total sum of tax-deductible donations last year. This is followed by IPCs in the health and education sectors respectively.

There were 646 IPCs as at December last year. IPCs are charities that can receive tax-deductible donations, which means donors can claim tax relief for the sums donated.

IPCs include well-known charities like the National Kidney Foundation and the Singapore Children’s Society. The National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University, both of which pull in tens of millions of dollars a year in tax-deductible donations, are also IPCs.

The pandemic affected charities last year, as many of the fund-raisers have to be cancelled or moved online given the restrictions on large in-person events, The Straits Times reported.

Many corporate donors also cut back on their giving, charities interviewed have said.

At the end of last year, there were 2,321 registered charities, including 55 charities registered last year.

Almost half of these charities are religious groups, such as churches and temples. The rest include organisations providing social and healthcare services, and those in education, arts and sports, among others.

Before the pandemic struck, the charities (which comprised IPCs and non-IPCs) received $3.2 billion in total donations in 2019. This was 13 per cent more than the $2.9 billion in 2018.

One key sector of the non-IPC charities comprises religious groups, which collected about 40 per cent of the $3.2 billion in total donations in 2019.

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The total donations, which comprise both tax-deductible and non-tax-deductible donations, for 2019 is the latest figure available.

According to the annual report, IPCs must be “dedicated to serving the needs of the community in Singapore as a whole and not be confined to sectional interests or groups of persons based on race, belief or religion”.

The tax-deductible donations are submitted by IPCs for the calendar year 2020, which is a different reporting period for the total donations.

For total donations, they are compiled based on annual returns submitted by charities for the financial year which ended in 2019.

Chairman of the Charity Council Gerard Ee said that with many businesses being hit by the pandemic, it is not unexpected that the sums companies gave to charity last year have fallen.

However, he noted that the tax-deductible sums donated by individuals surpassed that given by companies last year.

He said: “Singaporeans remain generous at heart and I’m not surprised that more individuals have contributed to charities, enjoying the tax deduction.”

He also noted that online donation websites like Giving.sg, which is run by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), have seen larger donations last year, even with the pandemic. Hundreds of charities use Giving.sg to raise funds.

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Giving.sg received a record sum of over $93.4 million in donations last year, more than twice the amount it collected in 2019.

NVPC’s deputy chief executive Tony Soh said the donations last year went largely towards pandemic-related causes, such as helping migrant workers, healthcare workers and ensuring food and digital security during the circuit breaker.

He said: “Giving has always been a part of Singapore’s DNA, but Singaporeans showed their real mettle during the pandemic – as innovative, caring and courageous people who came forward to uplift others in a time of intense need.”

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