PUBLIC POLICY UPDATE: JUNE 2016
AFP’s Public Policy Updates are delivered to chapter government relations chair and chapter presidents, along with any other interested members. The updates are a compilation of key issues and proposals that AFP and its chapters are addressing. To be added to the Public Policy Update distribution list, please email email@example.com.
Table of Contents:
- For Chapter Presidents and Government Relations Chairs
- U.S. Issues
- Canada Issues
- States/Provincial Issues
The AFP Public Policy Department stands ready to assist chapters in all aspects of government relations. We have helped chapters in developing talking points, creating lobbying and advocacy materials and setting up state/provincial lobby days.
If you are a chapter president, please ensure that your chapter has a government relations chair if at all possible. If you are a government relations chair, we encourage you to report to the chapter on important public policy issues during chapter meetings (when feasible) and follow up to your membership on AFP International’s Public Policy Alerts that require member action. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or with any questions.
Priority Issue: Building on the Charitable IRA Rollover
Late in 2015, Congress reached agreement on a package of tax bills which President Obama signed that made several charitable giving incentives permanent, including the Charitable IRA Rollover. That provision allows taxpayers over 70½ to make donations directly from an IRA and will not be taxed on the amounts—up to $100,000.
AFP’s next priority is to build on that victory and expand the application of the Charitable IRA Rollover Provision. For example, The CHARITY Act (S. 2750) would make donor-advised funds an eligible charity for purposes of the IRA rollover law. Read the eWire article on the CHARITY Act here.
In addition, the IRA Legacy Act, (HR 5171) would now expand the Charitable IRA Rollover by enabling IRA owners age 65 or older to transfer up to $400,000 per year (for individuals 70½ or older, the combined ceiling for direct and life-income transfers from their IRAs is $400,000, with a $100,000 cap for direct transfers) from their IRA to a life-income plan, including charitable remainder trusts and charitable gift annuities.
AFP is currently advocating in general for the expansion of the Charitable IRA Rollover, talking with various Congressional offices about chances of passage this year. We are also keeping an eye on the Congressional calendar and seeing what legislative vehicles will move this year and if a Charitable IRA Rollover could be attached to it.
AFP is not asking for action right now, but growing member awareness about these issues at chapter meeting is important.
Secondary Issue: IRS ACT Report and Recommendations
The Exempt Organizations (EO) Subcommittee of the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Governmental Entities, co-chaired by AFP President and CEO Andrew Watt, FInstF, has released its annual report to IRS leadership. This year’s report, “Stewards of the Public Trust: Long-Range IRS Planning for the Future of the Exempt Community,” makes 12 recommendations to the IRS to prepare it for its future work in overseeing and regulating exempt organizations.
The recommendations include:
- Ensure that EO staff are equipped to carry out the responsibilities of EO
- Give exempt organizations the tools they need to be tax compliant, including detailed audit data, relevant, user-focused guidance and an easily navigated website
- Assure cyber integrity both through technology tools, data collection and secured cyber storage
- Foster two-way communication between the IRS Exempt Organizations division and the nonprofit sector by finding ways to solicit input from a greater number of voices (including small nonprofits) and provide open channels for stakeholders to take issues to the IRS.
In connection with the report, the subcommitee conducted extensive interviews with EO leaders, practitioners, and regulators to identify challenges and gaps for the IRS regarding its oversight of and guidance to the sector.
While AFP is currently taking no action on the report, we will be working with the IRS and others to ensure the recommendations are supported and enacted.
FYI: Charitable Giving Coalition Responds to Op-Ed on Trump Plan
In May, Senator Judd Greg (R-N.H.) suggested in a column in The Hill newspaper (published in Washington, D.C. and read significantly by members of Congress, staff and other policy makers) that Donald Trump “could cut tax rates dramatically” and pay for it by “slicing back the major deductions such as those for health insurance, state and local taxes, and charitable donations.”
The Charitable Giving Coalition, which AFP chairs, responded with a letter outlining the impact and value of the charitable deduction. The full letter can be read here.
Priority Issue: Capital Gains Tax Exemption on Gifts of Privately Held Stock and Real Estate
As reported earlier this year, the 2016 federal budget did NOT include a capital gains exemption for gifts of private company shares and real estate, a provision that was included in the 2015 budget and widely expected to be approved again.
AFP is working with other sector organizations, along with donors and volunteers like Don Johnson, to ensure that the provision is included in the 2017 budget.
Dan Brunette wrote a column for the recent AFP/Globe and Mail “Philanthropy in Canada” special supplement about the capital gains exemption and other incentives. You can read the supplement and the op-ed here.
AFP is not calling for action on this issue yet, but is encouraging chapters to raise awareness of this issue. A call to action is likely in the near future, but we will be working with other organizations to ensure the timing is best to create the most impact.
Secondary Issue: Public Policy Platform
The Canadian Government Relations Committee has put together a platform of priorities for AFP and its public policy work for 2016 and beyond. The platform will focus AFP’s efforts and includes both specific, immediate priorities and other long-range goals.
The platform includes the following and will be sent to all chapters in the near future.
- Eliminate the capital gains tax on charitable gifts of private company shares and real estate in the 2016 Budget.
- Increase the flow of charitable funds and encourage Canadians to enhance their charitable giving by:
- extending the First-Time Donor’s Super Credit; and
- establishing a Stretch Tax Credit for Charitable Giving.
- Ensure provincial legislation and regulations support the work of ethical and effective fundraising by charitable organizations.
- Name a Minister responsible for the charitable and nonprofit sector.
- Designate a federal department to have economic policy responsibility for charities and nonprofits.
- Launch an immediate review of red tape and regulations affecting charities and nonprofits, amending or eliminating those policies that do not effectively advance the public interest.
- Institute methods to collect and disseminate up-to-date, comprehensive data about the sector, so that public policy decisions about the sector are evidence-based.
- Reform federal funding agreements to recognize legitimate operating and administrative costs for organizations selected to deliver federal services and programs. This would put procurement of these services on an even footing with private sector providers and help organizations to deliver better services.
Chapter Government Relations Chairs are encouraged to talk to chapter members about our platform and get feedback: what issues are missing, and are there certain issues that should be prioritized? You can send feedback to email@example.com.
FYI/Resource: Government Relations Toolkit for Members and Chapters
AFP has developed resource materials to help Canadian fundraisers engage their local, provincial and federal government systems. Funded by a generous gift from Don Johnson, together with donations raised through the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada’s Every Member Campaign and funds from the Winnipeg Foundation, this toolkit of information is now available online in both English and French.
The toolkit provides:
- a refresher on Parliament, including a description of Parliamentary roles and the protocol for addressing a member of Parliament, Senator or Cabinet Minister;
- tips on arranging meetings, setting agendas and making a concise elevator pitch to members of the government; and
- recommended next steps after you have met with a legislator/government officials to cultivate the relationship.
Chapter Government Relations Chairs are encouraged to use the toolkit to help set up meetings with Members of Parliament and other officials. Meetings may be needed later this year to discuss issues such as the capital gains tax exemption on gifts of privately held stock and real estate (discussed above).
FYI/Resource: Permissible Political Activities
Engaging with government officials provides charities with a powerful voice in shaping public policy and ensuring that our elected officials are well-informed. But some organizations are uncomfortable engaging in such advocacy, worried they are crossing into prohibited activity that might cost their organizations their charitable status.
Fortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency has provided the sector with clear direction, in the form of policy CPS-022. AFP members in Canada should familiarize themselves with this document and include it as a resource for their board members and colleagues.
A simple rule of thumb is that if a charity is merely sharing its knowledge, expertise and perspectives with government officials, it does so as part of its mandate, thus making the action in question a charitable activity, not a political one. This covers most of the interactions with government officials, and it gives all of us in the sector wide latitude for educating our government officials. It’s that simple.
Read the rest of the article by Canadian Government Relations Committee Chair Dan Brunette, CFRE!
Priority Bill: California: AB 2855
AFP is pleased to report that AB 2855 was not reported out of the Appropriations Committee and will not be further considered this year. Many thanks to all of our California chapters and members who responded to our legislative alert and contacted their Assemblymembers in opposition to the bill.
AB 2855 would have required ANY solicitation document produced by ANY charity (regardless of location) soliciting in California to include the address for an Attorney General’s website containing information about consumer rights and protections and charity research resources. This provision would also have required all soliciting charities to revise their solicitation documents and websites.
Priority Bill: New York: AB 3394
A.B. 3394 would require charities to disclose in ANY written communication sent following a donation to donors the amounts of money allocated toward charitable work versus amounts allocated for other purposes such as administrative costs.
The bill perpetuates the myth that administrative and fundraising costs are key indicators of charitable efficiency and effectiveness. It contains some onerous, burdensome and likely unconstitutional provisions, and seems neither practical nor reasonable.
So far the bill has not moved from the Governmental Operations Committee, and AFP thanks chapters and members in New York for their calls and emails to Assemblymembers. If you haven’t sent your email yet, please read our legislative alert here and take action!
Secondary Bill: Utah HB 267
Utah House Bill 267, which was enacted in late March, exempts a person from registration with the Division of Consumer Protection if that person’s only solicitation is an application for a grant offered by a state agency as long as (1) the state agency monitors grant recipients to ensure the funds are used in accordance with the grant’s purpose; and (2) the amount available to the applicant each year under the grant is less than or equal to $1,500. Additionally, the bill modifies an exemption from registration with the Division for a solicitation by an organization authorized by a school and affiliated with a central organization. Finally, the bill amends the expiration date for: (1) a professional fund raiser's permit; and (2) a professional fundraising counsel's or consultant's permit. Both permits now expire annually on the date of issuance.
Secondary Bill: Kentucky HB 583
Kentucky House Bill 583 would require the Office of the Attorney General to make available on a publicly accessible Web site a list of charities that (1) solicit in Kentucky; (2) file a copy of Form 990 notice of intent to solicit with the Attorney General; and (3) fail to meet the financial accountability standards recommended by the American Institute of Philanthropy's CharityWatch, based on a three-year average of annual expenditures.
Information on the website would be updated on an annual basis and include (1) the fifty charitable organizations that fell farthest from the American Institute of Philanthropy’s charitable spending recommendations; (2) each organization’s average expenditures; (3) the actual percentage spent on the organization’s stated charitable purpose; and (4) a link to the American Institute of Philanthropy’s CharityWatch website.
The bill has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee in early March. No other action has taken place, and it is not immediately clear if the bill will be enacted. However, we are concerned about the references to the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch and its ranking system, and that the bill codifies its use into law.
Secondary Bill: Oklahoma HB 2250
Oklahoma House Bill 2250 would prohibit animal rights charitable organizations, professional fundraisers for animal rights charitable organizations or professional solicitors employed by professional fundraisers for animal rights charitable organizations from soliciting contributions from any person in Oklahoma intended to be used on program services or functional expenses outside Oklahoma or for political purposes. For purposes of this bill, an animal rights charitable organization would not include an organization operated primarily to benefit or further the welfare of companion animals. The bill has been engrossed and signed in the House, and was sent to the Senate for consideration.