The charitable deduction from income taxes has provided wide-ranging benefits for American communities for nearly 100 years.
- It has strengthened churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions and ministries.
- It has helped to make possible the growth of our great colleges and universities, both private and public.
- It has supported hospitals and healthcare clinics in cities, suburbs, and rural areas across America.
- It has enabled museums, orchestras, theaters, and other cultural institutions to flourish.
- It has made indispensable contributions to scientific and medical research.
- It has financed our great think tanks of left, right, and center, and thereby enriched public discourse and debate in our democracy.
- It has provided crucial assistance to organizations serving the poor and needy and homeless, often with a more personal and compassionate touch than is possible through government programs.
- It has facilitated generous private giving by American citizens to nonprofits overseas, from orphanages in Central America to clean-water projects in Africa to schools for girls in India, substantially exceeding official development assistance from the U.S. government.
To sustain these benefits, an extraordinary coalition has come together to protect the charitable deduction from proposals by political leaders that would diminish charitable giving. The Philanthropy Roundtable and our legislative arm, the Alliance for Charitable Reform, are honored to be active members of this coalition.
In September, this coalition sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus expressing strong opposition to President Obama’s proposal to cap the charitable deduction: “Proposals to cap itemized deductions at 28 percent would have long-lasting negative consequences for the charitable organizations that millions of Americans rely on for vital programs and services.”
What is remarkable about this coalition is the broad range of charities it represents. The diversity of signatories for the letter to Sen. Baucus illustrates dramatically how vitally important the charitable deduction is to nonprofit organizations throughout America. Here are just some of the signers:
- American Association of Museums, a network of 3,000 cultural institutions across America, including art, history, science, military, maritime, and youth museums, as well as aquariums, zoos, botanical gardens, arboretums, historic sites, and science and technology centers.
- American Red Cross, America’s leading emergency response organization and emergency blood provider, with a network of half a million volunteers.
- Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, a network of 275 shelters for the homeless, offering hot food, clean clothing, temporary shelter, and the possibility of a more abundant life.
- Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, with members from 2,200 hospitals, hospices, long-term care providers, and other healthcare facilities.
- Council for Advancement and Support of Education, which serves 3,400 colleges and universities and schools. CASE works to advance fundraising at public and private colleges and universities. Indeed, in this time of state budget cuts, charitable giving provides crucial funding necessary to sustain excellence at flagship state universities.
- Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which enforces voluntary standards of financial accountability, fundraising, and board governance for nearly 1,600 ministries, educational institutions, and other evangelical Christian organizations.
- Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group for 157 local Jewish federations and 300 independent community organizations.
- League of American Orchestras, representing over 950 youth, collegiate, community, and professional orchestras.
- National Catholic Development Conference, which represents nearly 400 religious orders, dioceses, and other Catholic organizations.
- United Way Worldwide, the leadership and support organization for nearly 1,800 community-based United Ways. The United Way of America works with 1,300 local offices and is America’s largest charity.
The Philanthropy Roundtable is also honored that our sister organizations, the Council on Foundations and Independent Sector, are active participants in this coalition. The Roundtable, the Council, and Independent Sector don’t always agree on issues, but we are united in our support for the charitable deduction.
Ultimately, a vibrant private sector generates the wealth that makes philanthropy possible. There is a grave immediate danger that calls for higher taxes combined with diminished charitable incentives will lead to fewer resources for the private sector and for charitable giving overall.
Adam Meyerson is president of The Philanthropy Roundtable