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“The charitable deduction incentive is different than any other deduction or credit in the tax code,” said Sandra Swirski, executive director of the Alliance for Charitable Reform, which lobbies on behalf of donors and private foundations. The deduction encourages people to give away income, while other deductions and credits encourage people to buy things they can then write off, she noted.

Charitable giving in the U.S. increased in 2010 and 2011, according to the latest data. But it has yet to fully return to prerecession levels, according to data from the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University School of Philanthropy.

Charitable giving by individuals, foundations and corporations topped $298 billion in 2011. In 2007, it was $337 billion, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

From wire dispatches and staff reports