Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Romneys Use Straightforward Charitable Giving Methods But More Generously Than Most

Mitt and Ann Romney released their 2010 federal income tax returns (for themselves, three grantor trusts, and a private foundation) and an estimated 2011 federal income tax return for themselves.  As highlighted in a Bloomberg article focusing on their charitable giving, the level of their giving at $7 million or 16.4% of their gross income over the two-year period was relatively high even compared to the wealthiest Americans.  At the same, time their methods of giving were fairly straightforward for a wealthy family - a mix of cash and (presumably appreciated) stock contributions, including to what is apparently their family foundation (the Tyler Family Foundation).  The foundation in turn has given away significantly more than the required five percent annual payout in recent years, although it has also accumulated over $10 million in total assets.  As noted by various commentators in the article, including myself and new contributing editor to this blog Miranda Fleischer (Colorado), these are common and widely used philanthropic techniques.  The Romney could in fact have been more tax efficient with their giving if they had made proportionately more stock donations and as opposed to cash donations.  The primary recipient of the cash contributions - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which received over $4 million during these two years - appears more than willing to accept stock donations.  There was no sign in the returns of charitable trusts or other, more sophisticated charitable giving techniques.

LHM

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Comments

Charities, like government, serve the public good. Charitable donations are, thus, a voluntary "tax" payment for the public good. This is the reason the tax law encourages such donations by allowing a contribution deduction. If Romney's effective tax rate is 14%, then the real cost to him of donating 16.4% of his income is another 14% of income (86% x 16.4%). So, his real contribution to the public good through taxes and voluntary taxes is 28%.

Posted by: Raeburn Kennard | Jan 25, 2012 7:56:18 AM

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