Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

33 Senators to Finance Leaders: Save the Charitable Deduction

taxreform 161 072913 445x279 33 Senators to Finance Leaders: Save the Charitable Deduction

In the letter to Baucus, left, 33 senators call for preserving the charitable deduction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fans of the federal income tax deduction for charitable contributions should not fear.

Thirty-three senators, including the expected next chairman of the Finance Committee, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, want to ensure it sticks around.

Wyden and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., led the letter to current Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah. The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing next week on the nomination of Baucus to be ambassador to China, and there’s every expectation he will see swift confirmation.

In the moves that follow, Wyden is on track to take the Finance gavel. In a sense, Wyden is writing a letter to his future self.

“We write to you to underscore the importance of protecting the full value and scope of the charitable deduction during a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code. The charitable deduction has been an important and effective part of our tax code for almost 100 years,” the senators wrote. “The charitable deduction is unique. It is the only provision that encourages taxpayers to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others. For this reason, it is not a loophole, but a lifeline for millions of Americans in need.”

Baucus has been working on an overhaul of the country’s outdated and convoluted income tax code, which hasn’t been overhauled since 1986. Last year, he embarked with House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., on a tour seeking feedback on simplifying tax laws. Finance staff has produced a number of white papers on various aspects of the code.

“As you contemplate a comprehensive tax reform bill, we understand that all tax expenditures must be reviewed and considered. However, in this context, we ask that you keep our views on this important tax deduction in mind,” the senators wrote.

Full text of the letter appears here:

Dear Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch:

We write to you to underscore the importance of protecting the full value and scope of the charitable deduction during a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code. The charitable deduction has been an important and effective part of our tax code for almost 100 years.

The charitable deduction is unique. It is the only provision that encourages taxpayers to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others. 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. Worse yet, weakening the charitable deduction would most hurt the adults and children who receive vital charitable services from organizations like soup kitchens, after-school programs, and medical research projects, just to name a few. In many cases, the government would be required to step in and fund those services now being provided through private generosity. Accordingly, preserving the charitable deduction is also prudent as a matter of broader fiscal policy.

Indeed, charitable giving is an integral part of our society. In 2012 alone, Americans donated more than $300 billion to charitable organizations and itemized giving accounted for nearly $229 billion, according to Giving USA. The organizations that received those donations then leveraged their contributions through volunteers and other in-kind aid to generate $1.1 trillion in jobs and services, employing nearly 10 percent of America’s workforce.

We believe the federal government must affirm its long-standing dedication to encouraging private acts of charity and compassion, especially when our charities and the people they serve are facing so many challenges.

As you contemplate a comprehensive tax reform bill, we understand that all tax expenditures must be reviewed and considered. However, in this context, we ask that you keep our views on this important tax deduction in mind.

  • ExVariable

    While democratic processes attach value to each individual, collectivism reduces each of us to a vessel for the will of pernicious quacks and their utopian delusions.

  • Sally

    I disagree. Churches should be paying taxes, at least on the property they own. My town has been devastated by the home crisis, and the ensuing dearth of revenue. All our taxes could go down if the 60 odd churches in my town of 40,000 actually paid for their property. And I don’t give because of a deduction..I give because it’s the right thing to do. I suppose the Mormons and Catholics would feel differently.

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