ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – It’s a question many cashiers ask customers in the St. Louis area: “Would you like to sum up?”
It is often asked when checking out in a store or paying when passing through. Local grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and even pet stores offer customers the opportunity to make a charitable donation at the checkout.
News 4’s Chris Nagus was recently asked if he wanted to “round up” on a Missouri Taco Bell. He was told his 48-cent donation would benefit education and students. 48 cents doesn’t seem like much, but according to tax returns with the IRS, the Taco Bell Foundation raised millions of dollars from the generosity of its customers. According to their form of 990 for 2018, the Taco Bell Foundation raised nearly $ 14 million.
Joe Waters runs Selfish Giving, an organization that helps companies partner with nonprofits to raise money at the point of sale.
“They are getting popular,” said Walter.
He said a recent partnership with an east coast chain of 120 locations raised roughly $ 450,000 in donations in just three weeks.
Walter added, “Most people are pretty positive about this,” referring to summary campaigns in general. However, he added, “Some would argue in supermarkets that they were overdone and that they were asking too much in the register.”
Saint Louis University law professor Henry Ordower is an expert on tax law and isn’t a big fan of round-up campaigns, but not because he doesn’t like giving to charity. Ordower feels that the inquiries are often vague and fail to provide precise information about where the money is actually going.
He also feels that it puts consumers in place and, “You’re embarrassed to say no.”
In the case of the Taco Bell Foundation, you will be asked to help fund educational opportunities for students and Taco Bell employees. However, 990 forms also show administrators earn high salaries, including a combined income of $ 255,000 in 2018 for the foundation’s executive director. Another senior official earned about $ 200,000 that same year, according to 990 filings.
990 forms show that the foundation donates not only to students, but also to other charitable causes, including the YMCA in Rapid City, South Dakota and the Denver Zoological Foundation. Even if you think these are good reasons, they may not be particularly important in your donation decision.
“You have no idea where the money is going,” said Henry Ordower.
According to Ordower, the company does not receive a tax benefit from the donations, but a PR benefit.
“They advertise that they are making a charitable contribution, but it doesn’t come from the company’s coffers,” added Ordower.
Ordower says consumers can actually save their receipts and tabulate rounding amounts as tax deductions even if you don’t list your taxes. He says you can withdraw up to $ 300 in cash (credit card number) for the 2020 tax year.
According to a spokesperson for Taco Bell, four scholarships were awarded to students in the St. Louis area in 2020. These grants went to Taco Bell consumers and employees.
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