Ryan Changes His Tune on the Charitable Deduction

The lawmaker who will likely oversee the tax reform effort in Congress next year publicly voiced support for preserving the deduction for charitable contributions last week, changing the position he took as a candidate for vice president two years ago.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is likely to be the next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, firmly committed last week to protecting the charitable deduction in any rewrite of the tax code.

Ryan, who as a vice presidential candidate in 2012 backed a cap on deductions of $17,000, said in a television interview last week that charitable deductions are the “one exception” he would make to any cap on deductions as part of comprehensive tax reform.

I think [the charitable deduction] is a very important thing to preserve, and that’s pretty much as a supply-side or a low-tax-rate guy.

“This is really the one exception I make this for,” Ryan said in a CNBC interview. “Charities ought to be a tax expenditure that is still preserved because civil [society] is one of the most important components of American life, of getting people involved in our communities and philanthropies. I think that is a very important thing to preserve, and that’s pretty much as a supply-side or a low-tax-rate guy.”

The nonprofit community has repeatedly urged Congress to preserve the charitable deduction as an essential incentive for donors. In a hearing last year before the Ways and Means Committee, representatives from a wide range of nonprofit organizations told lawmakers that no limit should be placed on contribution levels and that the deduction should be opened up to those who do not itemize their deductions on their tax returns.

“The charitable deduction is a crucial incentive that gets people to give, and give more generously than they otherwise would,” Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, testified at the hearing. “It speaks to Congress’s commitment to encouraging this uniquely American activity. It unites people of different faiths, ideologies, and purposes and makes it possible for us to improve life in our communities and elsewhere.”

On tax reform broadly, Ryan has offered tepid support for the discussion draft released earlier this year by current Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), saying only that it’s a “good start to the conversation.” But last week, Ryan endorsed a plan in the Camp draft to scale back the mortgage interest deduction for higher-income earners, and he shares Camp’s view that the corporate tax rate should be lowered to help American companies stay competitive.

“In the global economy we are in, when we tax our employers at much higher tax rates than our foreign competitors are taxing theirs, it’s putting us at a competitive disadvantage and it’s slowing down our economy,” Ryan told CNBC.

Tax reform is widely considered to be off the table for the rest of the year, but congressional tax-writing committees plan to prioritize tax reform when the next Congress is seated in January.

(photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Chris Vest, CAE

By Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is vice president, corporate communications and public relations at ASAE. MORE

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