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Remembering military families, too, on Memorial Day 2020

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Photo by Suzanne Walker from Pexels

Memorial Day 2020 has an added poignancy. This solemn day to commemorate those who gave their lives in military service to the United States is overshadowed by the coronavirus. Almost 100,000 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded, with reporters often referring to military casualty numbers to put the pandemic's human cost in perspective.

The Memorial Day events that we are used to seeing or participating in have been altered by COVID-19. Rather than community gatherings to share our sorrow and thanks, most now are limiting attendees or are being done virtually.

There is so much, too much, lost when you cannot hug someone in a time a grief, even grief for a long-ago loss.

But in a very minor way we follow the lead of the fallen service men and women we honor on Memorial Day. We do what we've got to do under the circumstances that we are given.

Donating instead: If you cannot attend a Memorial Day event today, or even if you can, even virtually, consider showing your thanks to the armed forces' families left behind. Specifically, donate to a group that supports service personnel's surviving families.

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation was created to help those youngest survivors, the children of military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice. The 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization specifically focuses on helping those young people continue their educations.

The nonprofit annually awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to students who have lost a parent in the line of duty. Those losses aren't limited to combat situations. The Children of Fallen Patriots website explains:

Our mission is to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. We are dedicated to serving the families of service members from all branches of the armed forces who have died as a result of combat casualties, military training accidents, service-related illnesses, suicide, as well as other duty-related deaths as ruled by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you want to offer another type of support to families of fallen military personnel, you can find several on the Children of Fallen Patriots family support page.

You also can find more military-focused charitable groups in the collection created by Charity Navigator, itself a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that tracks other charitable organizations, of other organizations it has deemed highly-rated and trustworthy. The listed groups provide a variety of services from lifting troops' morale to offering financial assistance for necessary expenses to providing support for military families.

Tax breaks for donations: Since this is a tax blog, I once again am compelled to remind you about the tax connections of giving to any charitable group.

I know that most people who donate do so because they want to help others. Thank you.

The tax code also offers its thanks via a couple of ways to get a donation tax break.

For decades, donors have been able to deduct their charitable gifts as itemized deductions on Schedule A. That's still an option if you find itemizing instead of claiming the standard deduction is your preferred tax filing method.

This year, however, there's a new tax break for generous filers who claim the standard deduction.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which gets most attention for its creation of COVID-19 economic impact relief payments, includes a provision that lets individuals contribute up to $300 to certain charitable organizations and use that gift to help reduce their tax bills.

Basically, this is an addition to what used to be known as above-the-line deductions that are shown as adjustments to income on Form 1040's Schedule 1. These amounts reduce your total income to a lower adjusted gross income that, in most cases, means a smaller tax bill.

If you give to one of the military-centered (or other) nonprofits this year, again, thank you. And save that receipt. 

It will remind you that you might be able to get some tax savings from your charitable donation when you file your taxes next year.

And as a reminder today, Memorial Day 2020, here's a story from Steve Hartman for CBS Sunday Morning on how retired Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva (and others) plan to commemorate the day in this time of coronavirus cancelled parades and gatherings. 

Villanueva and other buglers and trumpet players across the country will stand on their porches at 3 p.m. this Memorial Day and play "Taps," the haunting 24-note reminder of what today is all about.

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