Posts tagged ‘taxes’

December 5, 2013

Special Report: No Tax Reform Bill in 2013

[Publisher's Note: "Special Reports" are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. "Special Reports" are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including "Special Reports," please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column.]

 

A tax reform bill will not be introduced in the US Congress before the close of 2013, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) indicated to The Hill.

US Capitol by Kevin Burkett via FlickrGiven that this is the first week of December and that House Republicans plan to leave Washington at the end of next week for the holiday break, the news is not surprising, even while important.

As soon as one month from now, the House could resume wrangling over a possible tax reform bill, according to Jason Lee, General Counsel for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. However, while the issue will be on the table in 2014, it will be a major challenge for Congress to move something as significant as a tax reform bill with the mid-term elections looming in November.

October 4, 2013

New Pew Report Sheds Light on Tax Deductions and Philanthropy

[Publisher's Note: Michael J. Rosen, CFRE will be interviewed by CausePlanet in a free webinar about his award-winning book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Learn more and register for the October 17 program by clicking HERE. If you need a speaker or trainer, contact Rosen today.]

-

A new report issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts provides valuable insights into the effect that tax deductions and credits have on charitable giving. The report comes at a critical time as federal and state governments continue to look for additional sources of revenue including cuts to charitable-giving tax deductions.

The Pew report, written by Elaine S. Povich, looks at the impact of tinkering with tax write-offs for charitable giving in a number of states including Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Vermont. The report nicely summarizes the impact of tax policy on philanthropy:

Tax incentives for charitable giving directly affect donations, particularly from high-income donors, according to Jon Bakija, an economics professor at Williams College. ‘Tax incentives for charitable donations in the US succeed in causing donations to increase, probably by about as much or more than they cost in terms of reduced tax revenue,’ he wrote in a paper published recently by the journal Social Research.”

Bakija went on to write:

This strengthens the case for the tax subsidies for donations.”

In an illuminating case study, the Pew report looks at what happened in Hawaii when the state government imposed a cap on the charitable giving tax deduction. According to Mallory Fujitani,Money Grab by Steve Wampler Photography via Flickr of the Hawaii Department of Taxation, the state expected the move to generate about $12 million to the state treasury. Unfortunately, the move cost charities $50 million to $60 million in lost donations, according to Tim Delaney, President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits.

In other words, Hawaii found that for every new dollar of tax revenue it generated from the cap on the charitable giving deduction, charities lost five dollars!

David L. Thompson, Vice President of Public Policy at the National Council of Nonprofits, summarized the experience of the various states that have tinkered with the charitable giving deduction:

What we learned in the states is that the charitable deduction is not just a nice thing for taxpayers, it’s vital to the communities. All politicians from across the political spectrum have come to the same conclusion that we are hurting our communities by discouraging giving to charities.”

Given the crystal clear Pew report, the experiences of various states, and the findings of academic research studies, a number of important questions come to mind:

August 9, 2013

Philanthropy at Gunpoint?

In a recent op-ed piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Mark Rosenman writes, “… few people in the nonprofit world seem aware of a new legislative proposal that could add $35-billion a year or more to [charity] programs perhaps including their own organizations.”

Rosenman is referring to a new tax proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) that would impose a financial-transaction tax modeled on one adopted by the European Parliament and soon to be implemented by 11 of its member nations in order to slow flash-trading.

The Harkin-DeFazio plan, called the “Wall Street Speculators Sales Tax,” “has drawn the support of over 40 national nonprofit organizations and labor unions but has not caught the imagination of local and regional charities or the major coalitions that represent nonprofit groups,” according to Rosenman.

While I encourage you to read Rosenman’s op-ed article as well as the comments, many made by me in a tense exchange with Rosenman, I’ll share with you here what’s wrong with Rosenman’s support of the new tax plan:

1. The Wall Street Speculators Sales Tax will NOT benefit the nonprofit sector as it currently stands. Harkin and DeFazio introduced the tax plan to generate revenue to reduce the deficit. Right now, there is no reason to believe that even one cent would flow through to the community benefit sector. Rosenman initially misleads his readers on this critical point and does not provide clarification until the comment section.

2. Even if Congress could be persuaded to give the new revenue to the nonprofit sector, it raises a number of questions. Who would decide which charities should receive the money? On what basis should those decisions be made? Given that so many large charities employ lobbyists, would the new government spending go to those with political influence or those with vital programs that produce desired outcomes?

3. More government funding is not necessarily a solution to our problems. The federal government is already spending an enormous amount on the nonprofit sector. Government spending on nonprofits has grown from $100 billion a year in 1962 to an astounding $3.6 trillion in 2012, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal by James Piereson, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and President of the William E. Simon Foundation.

If a 36-fold increase in government spending on the charity sector since 1962 has not produced the desired result, will an additional $35 billion do the trick? At what point will government be spending enough on the charity sector?

The charity sector’s enormous appetite for government money (really taxpayer money) has created an interesting dynamic. Piereson points out that many of the charities that receive the most government funding turn around and lobby the government for even more money and for higher taxes! This kind of dynamic is created when nonprofit organizations start being funded like and acting like government agencies rather than charities.

The nonprofit sector’s reliance on government funding is dangerous. It encourages institutional laziness, a loss of independence, a lack of public responsiveness and, perhaps, aligning mission with government objectives rather than constituent needs.

Marvin Olasky observed in his book The Tragedy of American Compassion, greater government involvement in and funding of the social services sector historically has led to a pullback of private support for such organizations.

I’ve served on the boards of social service agencies, most recently for an organization helping children.

Piggy Bank by Images_of_Money via FlickrThe social service agency received virtually all of its funding from the government in the form of grants and contracts. At that time, the agency was meeting just a quarter to a third of the need in the community. But, to its credit, the agency eventually set the goal of meeting the needs of 100 percent of the community. The organization recognized that it would never be able to achieve this goal if it continued to be so dependent on government funding. Therefore, the agency launched a major, sustainable push for private funding.

An interesting thing happened. As private funding grew, the organization’s service capacity also grew. With a strong, compelling case for support, the agency has now raised the necessary resources to meet the needs of everyone in its community! While government funding is still important, the organization has achieved a healthier more sustainable funding balance that allows it to serve far more people and serve them better.

Richard Freedlund, on the greatergoodfundraising blog, states, “The problem is, if your budget is so dependent on government funding and not donors, you really do not fit the definition of a charity.”

4. The proposed tax would affect more than the wealthy. Rosenman stated that the new tax would primarily impact wealthy and institutional investors. However, that’s like a tuna fisherman saying his nets primarily catch tuna, and we should not worry about the dolphins also caught in the nets. The fact is institutional investors represent mom and pop investors and pension funds for working Americans. The majority of people in the US own securities.

Rosenman says the tax really won’t add up to much money for these small investors, so I shouldn’t worry about them. But, I had another idea. I asked my 86-year-old mother what she thought about the new tax idea.

Before I tell you what my mom said, let me just mention that for a huge chunk of her life, she was poor. I’m talking coal-stove heat, no bathroom plumbing poor. Together, she and my dad worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. As a result of a strong work ethic and a commitment to saving, she now has a modest nest egg, some of which she invests in mutual funds.

Here’s what my mom said about the new investor-tax proposal with Rosenman’s suggested modification for charities:

July 6, 2013

WARNING: Do Not Stick Your Head in the Sand!

I’ve warned the nonprofit sector.

Over the years, I’ve warned the nonprofit sector many times.

Most recently, I provided a warning last month in my post “Special Report: America’s 50 Worst Charities Named”:

As a profession, we must do more to self-regulate. If we do not, we can expect others to fill the vacuum. The ["50 Worst Charities"] investigative report is one example of how those outside the nonprofit arena are filling that vacuum. It’s only a matter of time before government regulators become even more engaged.”

Well, sticking one’s head in the sand did not work. Declaring that most community benefit organizations efficiently do good did not work. Instead, just as Head in Sand by tropical.pete via FlickrI predicted, government has stepped into the void. Due to the nonprofit sector’s failure to self-regulate or to lead the way with government officials, politicians are taking action to further regulate charities.

Oregon has become the first state in the nation to “eliminate state and local tax subsidies for charities that spend more than 70 percent of donations on management and fundraising, rather than programs and services, over a three-year period,” according to a report in The Statesman Journal. This might be a model law that other states soon consider.

Recently, the good leaders at GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance penned a Letter to the Donors of America. In the open letter, the authors stated:

We write to correct a misconception about what matters when deciding which charity to support.

The percent of charity expenses that go to administrative and fundraising costs—commonly referred to as ‘overhead’—is a poor measure of a charity’s performance.”

Reading the opening paragraphs of the letter, one might be led to believe that overhead costs should not factor into our giving decisions. However, the authors are quick to point out:

That is not to say that overhead has no role in ensuring charity accountability. At the extremes the overhead ratio can offer insight: it can be a valid data point for rooting out fraud and poor financial management.”

In Oregon, state legislators were clearly motivated to act by the behavior of charities at the extreme.

The Statesman Journal reports:

The Oregon Department of Justice has already identified the top 20 ‘worst of the worst.’

They include charities such as Michigan-based Law Enforcement Education Program, which spent just 2.7 percent of its funds on programs over the past three years; California-based Shiloh International Ministries, which spent 3.2 percent on programs; and Florida-based American Medical Research Organization, which spent just 4.2 percent on programs.”

As a result of the Oregon law, donors to the disqualified charities will no longer be able to take a state tax deduction for their contributions. Also, the disqualified charities will no longer be exempt from property taxes.

June 19, 2013

What You Really Need to Know about Giving USA 2013

Philanthropic giving in the USA increased for the third straight year in 2012, but only modestly.

Overall giving in 2012 totaled $316.23 billion, an increase in current dollars of 3.5 percent over 2011. Adjusted for inflation, the increase is just 1.5 percent. That’s the finding presented in Giving USA 2013, the report researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and just released by the Giving USA Foundation™.

Click the photo to get a free copy of Giving USA Highlights.

Click the photo to get a free copy of Giving USA Highlights.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dr. Patrick M. Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He asserts that, at current growth rates, it would take at least six years for a return to pre-recession giving when adjusted for inflation. He anticipates growth will indeed continue to be slow since the overall economic recovery is slow.

For more than half-a-century, giving has hovered at two percent of Gross Domestic Product. When GDP grows strongly, giving is robust. When GDP growth is sluggish, so is philanthropy. With many economists predicting 2013 GDP growth of just 1.9 percent, Rooney’s prediction seems entirely reasonable.

Here are some highlights from the report:

–2012 saw marked year-over-year growth in corporate giving (12.2 percent in current dollars), which is strongly linked to companies’ profits. For 2012, corporate pre-tax profits surged upward 16.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

–Uncertainty fueled by mixed economic indicators may have moderated giving by individuals, who historically account for the largest percentage of total giving. Positive trends, such as the 13.4 percent increase in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index between 2011 and 2012, the slight rise in home values, and overall lower unemployment rates and fuel costs, were combined with budget concerns and tax reform discussions. In addition, personal disposable income rose 3.3 percent and personal consumption expenditures rose 3.6 percent last year, virtually mirroring the growth in individual giving (3.9 percent in current dollars).

–Giving by individuals rose to $228.93 billion in 2012, an estimated 3.9 percent increase (1.9 percent adjusted for inflation). Income and wealth are key drivers of household giving, as is a sense of financial security. Giving by taxpayers who itemize their gifts represented 81 percent of the total donated by individuals in 2012.

–Giving by bequest decreased an estimated 7.0 percent in 2012 (8.9 percent adjusted for inflation) to $23.41 billion. Itemizing estates contributed 78 percent of the total, or $18.31 billion. Bequest giving tends to be volatile from year to year, as it is highly influenced by very large gifts from estates that closed during that year. For example, Rooney explains that if we remove one exceptionally large bequest from the 2011 numbers, we find that bequest giving was close to the same in 2012 and 2011 when adjusted for inflation. So, the big dip in 2012 should not set off alarm bells. With real estate values and stock portfolios rebounding, the future for bequest giving is encouraging.

–Giving by corporations rose 12.2 percent in 2012 (9.9 percent adjusted for inflation), to an estimated $18.15 billion, including gifts from both corporations and their foundations. The two entities provide cash, in-kind donations and grants. Increasing the 2012 total was the estimated $131 million corporations gave to nonprofits working on relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

–Giving by foundations increased 4.4 percent (2.3 percent adjusted for inflation) to an estimated $45.74 billion in 2012, according to figures provided by the Foundation Center. Giving by community foundations grew 9.1 percent last year, which helped to bolster the total. Operating and independent foundations increased grant making by 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. While stock values increased in 2012, foundations often use a multi-year rolling average when valuing their portfolios. Therefore, as stock values continue to climb, we should see stronger future growth in foundation giving.

–Looking at foundation giving, 45 percent comes from family foundations where a member of the family continues to be actively involved in running the foundation. In a sense, these organizations blur the line between foundation and individual giving. Giving by family foundations can often be very relationship driven as with individual giving.

While the data provides a number of interesting insights about the charitable behavior of Americans, it also hints at serious warnings, according to a panel of experts that gathered in Philadelphia to present the Giving USA findings. The panelists included Jon Biedermann, Vice President of DonorPerfect; Robert Evans, Founder and Managing Director of The EHL Consulting Group; Eileen R. Heisman, ACFRE, President and CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust; and Rooney. Here are their warnings:

March 28, 2013

Special Report: Senate Passes Budget Resolution, Charitable Deduction in Danger

Days ago, the US Senate passed the Senate Budget Resolution by a vote of 50-49 with one senator not voting. During the deliberations leading up to the vote, the Senate refused to consider an amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD). That amendment would have protected the charitable deduction.

When the House and the Senate come together to reconcile their budget proposals, one of the items they will likely discuss is whether to preserve, restrict, or eliminate the tax deduction for charitable giving.

March 14, 2013

Special Report: Charitable Giving Deduction in the Crosshairs, Again

The US Senate Budget Committee has just released its FY 2014 Budget Resolution. On pages 65 and 66, the Democratic-controlled Committee asserts that the wealthy are unfairly benefiting from “tax expenditures.”

The Budget Committee calls on the Senate Finance Committee to reduce the deficit by limiting or reforming “unfair” tax breaks for the wealthy. The Committee specifically mentions itemized deductions with various options listed for limiting them (i.e.: a percentage cap, hard dollar cap, etc.). The charitable deduction is not exempted from these various proposals.

The Obama Administration has previously floated a similar proposal. You can read my analysis of that in my post: “Obama Plan Could Cost Nonprofit Sector $5.6 Billion a Year.” In short, limiting or eliminating the tax deduction for charitable giving is expected to have a significant, negative impact on giving.

January 10, 2013

Special Report: Are You Ready for 2013? These FREE Resources Will Help

When Congress recently adopted the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, it had an immediate impact on the nonprofit sector. The new law provides some opportunities and challenges. Are you ready for both in 2013?

I’ve already written two posts to provide some useful insights:

Now, Viken Mikaelian and Brian Sagrestano, JD, CFRE, of PlannedGiving.Com, are offering a free webinar on Wednesday, January 16, at 2:00 PM (EST). “What to Tell Your Prospects” will explore:

January 4, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Disaster Averted, but Trouble Looms

We ended 2012 by surviving the so-called Mayan Doomsday. We began 2013 by driving off the so-called Fiscal Cliff before averting possible economic disaster. Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which put the nation back on safe ground, for the moment.

Previously, I looked at the Act and provided information about what key elements mean for the nonprofit sector. Now, let’s look at:

What’s next?Road Sign by Madjag via Flickr

The Charitable Giving Coalition, chaired by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, as well as the AFP Political Action Committee, won a great victory when Congress preserved the charitable giving tax deduction and reinstated the IRA Charitable Rollover for 2012 and 2013. Everyone who was involved in visiting members of Congress, writing them, or calling them to advocate for the nonprofit sector certainly has a right to take pride in what the sector has accomplished.

However, before we get too carried away congratulating ourselves, let’s remember that the nonprofit sector continues to face danger.

The return of Pease Amendment provisions will make charitable giving a bit more expensive for wealthy donors. Higher taxes will also mean that donors will have less money with which to give. As a result, organizations may face some challenges. But, these are challenges that we have faced before. We’ll just have to work a bit more creatively.

Unfortunately, there are other looming dangers.

Thelma & LouiseThe Fiscal Cliff legislation, which was originally supposed to decrease the deficit, will actually increase the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In other words, we’re still headed full-speed ahead to economic collapse which would be a disaster for the nonprofit sector and society in general.

Charitable giving has historically correlated to about two percent of Gross Domestic Product. If GDP growth continues at a slow pace, philanthropy is also likely to grow only modestly. If runaway deficit spending leads to another recession, we can expect a likely decline in overall philanthropy.

All Congress has done is buy a bit of time.

Republicans have signaled that they will address the issue of spending cuts within the next two months. In two months, Congress will have to vote on whether to increase the nation’s debt ceiling. President Obama has already said that any spending cuts will require an increase in tax revenue in order to garner Democrat support.

Having achieved a tax rate increase, The White House now seeks to raise additional revenue in other ways. For example, the Administration may want to apply the top tax rates to those earning less than the current threshold of $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples. Also, the Administration is likely to seek limitations on deductions, particularly for the “wealthy.” The Administration has previously expressed support for both revenue generating options. Now, it’s likely those proposals will resurface during spending-cut negotiations.

So, while the charitable deduction appears to be safe for the moment, that safety may only last for two months.

Think I’m being alarmist? Let me provide some perspective from the US Debt Clock:

In 2000 the deficit was $5.8 trillion, which was $56,150 per taxpayer.

In 2008 the deficit was $9.2 trillion, which was $85,893 per taxpayer.

In 2012 the deficit was $16.4 trillion, which was $145,620 for every taxpayer.

Now, the Fiscal Cliff deal will add another $4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years!

At some point, the American economy will either collapse, going the way of Greece, or the government will get its act together and control spending. I’ve heard a lot of talk during the debate over the Fiscal Cliff about the need to return to Clinton Era tax rates. Sadly, there was little talk of returning to Clinton Era spending levels, even as a percentage of GDP which would still allow for spending increases.

The situation must be dealt with for the good of the nation. Unfortunately, this may require some pain for the nonprofit sector in the form of a reduced charitable giving tax deduction and reduced direct grants to and contracts with nonprofit organizations.

On the floor of the House of Representatives, during debate over the Fiscal Cliff legislation, Democrats have already begun to argue for additional revenues, echoing statements this week from The White House. In other words, the nonprofit sector has made it out of the first round of debates. But, the second round is quickly approaching.

Challenging times remain immediately ahead.

January 3, 2013

Special Report: Everything Each NPO Must Know about Fiscal Cliff Legislation

A dysfunctional White House and Congress officially took the United States over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” at the close of December 31. Fortunately, a deal was reached late on New Year’s Day, hopefully averting what economists say would have been an almost certain return to deep recession.

Since the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed, there’s already been a great deal of confusion and misinformation about what the Act means to the nonprofit sector. 

Thankfully, Brian M. Sagrestano, JD, CFRE, a consultant and co-author of Philanthropic Planning Companion: The Fundraiser’s and Professional Advisors’ Guide to Charitable Gift Planning, has written a careful and thorough analysis of the 157-page Act with particular attention to: income taxes, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, gift and estate taxes, the IRA Charitable Rollover, and other provisions. He also predicts the impact the Act will have on philanthropy and provides some important tips for all nonprofit organizations.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 724 other followers

%d bloggers like this: