When the coronavirus pandemic and its comet tail of effects reached Connecticut last year, Louis Goffinet sprang to action.
The 27-year-old middle school teacher started grocery shopping for his older neighbors in Mansfield who were leery of going to the store for fear of catching the virus, The Hartford Courant reported.
Goffinet initially spent his own money on these shopping trips but soon realized people could use more help. He started raising money on Facebook, setting his goal at $200, according to the newspaper.
He raised more than $41,000 in a series of fundraisers.
Goffinet put the funds toward more than 250 grocery trips and family dinners, 31 Thanksgiving meals, rent for several families and holiday gifts for kids, WVIT reported.
But in January, Goffinet got some unexpected news — he owed more than $16,000 in taxes on the money he’d raised.
“I was so shocked,” Goffinet told the Courant. “When I think about the mental spot I was in at the end of January, coming off a second fundraiser that was quite a lot of work — busy weekends coordinating Thanksgiving, holiday gifts — to get what I perceived as a bill in the mail for $16,000 was just shocking.”
He received a 1099-K form which showed the money had been reported as personal income, The Connecticut Mirror reported.
Third-party fundraising sites like Facebook are required to issue these forms if fundraising amounts exceed $20,000, certified public accountant Dawn Brolin told WVIT. Since Goffinet isn’t a non-profit, it’s all considered taxable income.
The IRS cap for non-taxable gifts is $20,000, per The Mirror.
Goffinet talked with a tax attorney and several accountants to see if there was anything they could do to help, but to no avail — Goffinet said he’s on the hook for the hefty bill, per The Mirror.
Earlier this month, Goffinet shared the disappointing news on Facebook.
“Almost exactly 1 year ago (361 days), I started a series of Facebook Fundraisers to help local families who’d been financially impacted by COVID-19,” he wrote. “Today, I learned that I am responsible for $16,031 in INCOME TAX on the funds I raised via Facebook. Not kidding.”
He hopes his community will rally around him.
“This is more than I can reasonably afford to pay alone, and am asking for the community’s help,” he wrote.
Now, Goffinet says he’s looking for other ways to help his community.
In the meantime, he’s warning people who may launch fundraisers in the future to ensure they’re “really taking it slow and making sure that you have all of your ducks in a row,” according to WVIT.
Mansfield is roughly 25 miles east of Hartford.