People who donate a kidney, part of their liver, or bone marrow for transplant surgeries can receive tax breaks in 17 states; however, a new study finds that incentives did not increase the number of organ donations. That does not mean states should end the tax breaks, the report’s researchers said. Instead, states should focus on improving them, said Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani, a Massachusetts General Hospital resident who led the study. Increasing the amounts could be one change, according to NPR:
Typically states offer a deduction of up to $10,000 from taxable income. For a typical family that translates to less than $1,000 in reduced taxes. But the financial burden for a living kidney donor can range from $907 to $3,089, according to one study.
The tax incentives are intended to defray the organ donor’s cost in medical care, travel and lost wages. By federal statute, it’s illegal to pay someone for the organ itself.
Authors of the new study suggest increasing the value of the tax deductions or converting them into a tax credit, which would lower the donor’s tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis. So far only Iowa offers donors a tax credit.
There’s also reason to think that few people in states with tax credits know about them. Study authors found that even organ donation advocate groups were unaware. So were people being evaluated as living donors, including even the most educated and informed prospective donors.
“These tax incentives cost the states very little, so there is no real reason to do away with them,” Venkataramani said.
With more than 100,000 people on waiting lists, officials consider how to increase the number of donations from living donors. At the same time, rising obesity rates could lead to fewer organ donations. More than 60 percent of Americans support the idea of compensating donors with credits for health care needs, but this new report shows that tax breaks will not immediately lead to more organ transplants.