Posts tagged ‘public policy’

October 4, 2013

New Pew Report Sheds Light on Tax Deductions and Philanthropy

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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:

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