Senators’ Letter Lends Bipartisan Support to Charitable Deduction

Two senators from opposite sides of the aisle joined forces last week to urge their fellow tax writers on the Senate Finance Committee to preserve the deductibility of charitable contributions.

On a day when more than 200 representatives from the nonprofit and charitable sectors gathered on Capitol Hill for “Protect Giving Day,” two Senate Finance Committee leaders issued a joint letter declaring bipartisan support for preserving the charitable deduction, as tax reform discussions continued in both chambers.

In their letter to committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) stressed the importance of maintaining the deduction.

“It is the only provision that encourages taxpayers to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others,” they wrote [PDF]. “For this reason, it is not a loophole, but a lifeline for millions of Americans in need. Analysis has repeatedly shown that proposals to cut, cap, or limit the charitable deduction could cause charitable donations to decline by billions of dollars annually.”

The letter was shared with Senate offices during a legislative fly-in organized by the Charitable Giving Coalition. Thune and Wyden are working to get more senators to sign on to the letter.

“We applaud Senators Thune and Wyden for their recognition of the central role of private charitable giving in strengthening our civil society and for their willingness to be catalysts for public, bipartisan support for the charitable deduction,” Adam Meyerson, president of the Philanthropy Roundtable, said in a statement.

The fate of the charitable deduction has been hanging in the balance since before the 2012 presidential election. After a reelected President Barack Obama indicated his belief that the deduction wasn’t at risk of being eliminated, it remained on the chopping block when comprehensive tax reform discussions heated up in the House and Senate.

Nonprofits converged on the Hill in February to defend the deduction before the House Ways and Means Committee. During that hearing, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman of the committee, announced the creation of 11 working groups that would examine different aspects of the tax code; one group was asked to focus on charitable and tax-exempt organizations.

Since the May release of a lengthy report by the Joint Committee on Taxation—which included feedback gathered by the 11 working groups—much has been reported on the tax reform discussions, but little is known about the progress either chamber has made toward a proposal for an overhaul of the nation’s tax code.

Camp, who was aiming to have the House proposal together by the end of the year, hinted last week that he probably will not meet that deadline.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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