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Limiting Charitable Deductions Is Not The Way to Position U.S. for the 21st Century

Fundraising Professionals Vow to Protect American Tradition of PhilanthropyFrom Caps in Administration’s 2015 Budget Plan

(Mar. 5, 2014) In response to President Obama’s 2015 budget plan, which would limit the value of the charitable deduction for gifts made by some taxpayers, Andrew Watt, the president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and Bob Carter, the chair of AFP, released the following statement:

In his budget plan, President Obama writes that “the United States is better positioned for the 21st Century than any other nation on Earth.” While we could not agree more, part of the reason is America’s great tradition of philanthropy, in which citizens help each other by giving, volunteering and engaging with more than one million charities across the country.

Philanthropy plays a huge role in American society, and not just in the billions of programs and services charities provide every year. America’s charitable sector accounts for nearly ten percent of the national workforce and raises hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Philanthropy also encourages civic participation, creating bonds and connections between people, and between citizens and their country.

But a proposal in the Budget that would cap all itemized deductions—including the charitable deduction—at 28 percent for certain taxpayers would hurt charities’ ability to help our citizens prepare for the 21st century. The proposal represents a potential loss of $80 billion in charitable contributions over a ten-year period. The loss is even greater because research shows that for every dollar of potential tax revenue invested through the deduction, the public and communities across America receive approximately $2.50 in philanthropic services.

This proposal does NOT mean the Administration is against philanthropy. We are appreciative that under the Budget’s proposed Buffett Rule—requiring high-income taxpayers to pay at least 30 percent in federal taxes—charitable contributions could still be used to lower their tax bill. However, we would note that if charitable contributions are exempt from the Buffett Rule, it makes sense to also exempt them from the 28 percent cap as well.

Our country faces important fiscal decisions, but altering the deduction means less giving. It means less programs and services that benefit all Americans, but especially those in critical need. It means the breaking of a covenant between charities, government and the public about the important role that philanthropy plays in our country. And it means less preparedness for the American people in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. 

We should be investing more in the deduction and encouraging additional philanthropy, not finding ways to limit or cap it. The Senate has already expressed its support of the charitable deduction, with one-third of Senators signing on to letter penned by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) AFP’s more than 30,000 charities and fundraisers also support the deduction, and each can talk knowledgeably about the importance the charitable deduction plays.

We call on the Administration and Congress to protect the charitable deduction and examine new ways to create more citizen engagement through philanthropy.

For more information about AFP’s views on philanthropy and the charitable deduction, including AFP’s testimony before Congress on the importance of the deduction, email Michael Nilsen at mnilsen@afnpet.org



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