Pandemic good Samaritan faces hefty US tax bill for efforts

Teacher who raised $41,000 to help hundreds of struggling neighbours may owe more than $16,000

Louis Goffinet's fundraising efforts may have earned him a hefty tax bill. AP 
Louis Goffinet's fundraising efforts may have earned him a hefty tax bill. AP 

A Connecticut middle school teacher who raised $41,000 to help hundreds of his struggling neighbours during the Covid-19 pandemic received an unwelcome surprise for his efforts: a form stating he could owe $16,031 in income taxes.

Louis Goffinet, 27, began picking up groceries for elderly neighbours afraid to go to the shops during the early days of the pandemic, often spending his own money.

Mr Goffinet later organised two fund-raisers on Facebook over a year and helped hundreds of families with groceries, rent money and holiday gifts, the Hartford Courant reported.

His original goal was to raise $200 to help one family with groceries.

Mr Goffinet said financial support for his efforts and demand for assistance became higher than he expected.

He tracked 140 grocery trips on a spreadsheet and provided Friday night dinners to 125 families, holiday gift cards for 20 families so they could buy gifts for their children, 31 Thanksgiving dinners and rental aid to five families.

Some local businesses donated food.

“It became dramatically bigger than I thought," Mr Goffinet said. "My original goal was to raise $200 to help one family with groceries.

"I was already doubting myself when I set that up, that people in town are not going to want to pay for someone else’s groceries.”

In January, Facebook sent Mr Goffinet a tax form that stated he owed taxes on the money he had raised.

Facebook warns users that money generated from a fund-raiser on the social media platform may be taxable if more than $20,000 is raised.

“I was so shocked,” Mr Goffinet said.

“When I think about the mental spot I was in at the end of January, coming off a second fund-raiser that was quite a lot of work – busy weekends co-ordinating Thanksgiving, holiday gifts – to get what I perceived as a bill in the mail for $16,000 was just shocking.’′

He is now working with a local accountant to determine how best to handle the situation.

Mr Goffinet's bill is due on May 17 and he expects to pay “some sort of tax burden”, but isn't sure exactly how much.

Meanwhile, people in the community are trying to help him out with the tax bill, so far sending $2,000 in checks to a post office box – not through Facebook.

Published: April 20, 2021 04:45 AM

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