Monday, March 17, 2014

Nonprofits Should Not be Knee-Jerks

I agree with Professor Mittendorf who, writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week, argues that tax reform might actually increase charitable giving even if reform limits the charitable contribution deduction, and nonprofit stakeholders should not reflexively oppose every attempt to change the deduction:

It has now become a yearly ritual that members of Congress and White House officials offer proposals to limit or even eliminate charitable tax deductions.  And, as a part of the ritual, nonprofit leaders spring up as fast as they can to protest that the changes will stifle charitable giving. Vikki Spruill, head of the Council on Foundations, captured the reaction of many in response to the latest round of proposals: “This is an 'if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ situation” she told The Chronicle.  Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but it’s possible that tax reform could offer the potential to expand charitable giving, or at least not cause the decline that many fear.

Mittendorf offers a couple of reasonable-sounding suggestions, at the same time acknowledging that the devil is in the details.  One person commenting on the opinion piece complained that nonprofits automatically oppose any form of tax reform impacting on the charitable contribution deduction while decrying other ills of society for which the tax code is blamed, wholly or partially.  This sort of blind turf protection, it seems to me, paints nonprofits as no different than any other interest group. 


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