27 January 2017

ACR News 1.27.17 – Lawmakers Looking to Unlock More Charitable Giving

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Tax Reform Discussions
>> Federal: Treasury Secretary
>> Federal: Roundtable Files Brief to the Supreme Court
>> Federal: ACR Summit for Leaders
>> Consider This: Go Big
>> Top ReadsTrump and Taxes: A Guide for Nonprofit Leaders

Washington Roundup

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States last Friday, and has already started tackling his agenda by issuing more than 10 executive orders in a week. In Congress, GOP lawmakers have also hit the ground running on their priorities. The Senate and House passed a budget in early January that includes instructions for a legislative tool known as reconciliation, which avoids the threat of a filibuster, in order to repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act.

This week, House and Senate Republicans met at a joint retreat in Philadelphia to outline their 2017 goals, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid out a 200-day agenda that includes rolling back regulations, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and rewriting the tax code, among other ambitions.

Tax Reform Discussions 

House Republicans have begun writing legislative language around their tax reform blueprint, and Speaker Ryan said he wants to have a tax package passed before the August recess. GOP lawmakers have not made it clear what a charitable giving incentive will look like though. At an event on Wednesday morning, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said Republicans aim to spur more charitable donations as a part of tax reform, but did not clarify how that would look. Over the next several months, we’ll be working closely with Ways and Means members and staff to shape the incentive and ensure the charitable sector is not unintentionally harmed in tax reform.

Video of Chairman Brady’s comments is below.

Treasury Secretary 

On Thursday, January 19, Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin faced questioning from the Senate Finance Committee as part of his confirmation process. Mnuchin made several statements vowing that a pro-growth, simplified tax code is a priority for him, but did not address specific deductions such as the charitable giving deduction. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) said he hopes the Administration treats the charitable and mortgage interest deductions carefully going forward, but there was no other mention of the charitable sector in his hearing.

Roundtable Files Brief in Donor Privacy Case 

The Philanthropy Roundtable is filing a friend-of-the-court brief today in the case Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to uphold a federal district court’s earlier ruling that the California attorney general’s attempt to force a charitable organization to disclose its donor list is an unconstitutional burden on its First Amendment rights.

Beginning in 2010, the California attorney general’s office has demanded that all tax-exempt charities submit unredacted versions of their IRS Form 990 Schedule B, which includes the name, address, and amount contributed of significant donors. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) sued the state arguing that the requirement was a violation of donor privacy and the First Amendment. In April 2016, Judge Manuel Real of the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of AFPF noting that “the record before the Court lacks even a single, concrete instance in which pre-investigation collection of a Schedule B did anything to advance the Attorney General’s investigative, regulatory or enforcement efforts.” The trial also revealed that despite assurances that the sensitive information would be kept confidential, the attorney general’s office had posted the donor information of more than 1,700 nonprofits had their donors.

The brief submitted by the Roundtable today focuses on anonymous giving as a longstanding and indispensable feature of American philanthropy and that California’s forced collection and reckless disclosure of sensitive donor information raises serious constitutional concerns.

Please check the ACR blog early next week to read the Roundtable’s  full brief in AFPF v. Becerra.

ACR Summit for Leaders 
You are invited to the ninth annual Alliance for Charitable Reform Summit for Leaders!

March 21, 2017
8:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Continental breakfast to be served at 7:45 a.m.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

The next two years will be a time of vulnerabilities as well as opportunities for the philanthropic sector. The likelihood of sweeping tax reform has risen dramatically with the election of a Republican president along with Republican control of both the House and the Senate. As part of the tax reform discussion, we’ve already seen lawmakers propose provisions that may threaten charitable giving. With many tax issues still undecided, nothing is completely on or off the table.

The ACR Summit for Leaders is the kick-off event for Foundations on the Hill. Programming features leaders in philanthropy, policy experts, and congressional staff.

We invite you to join us to get the insider’s view of Congress and learn about what we can do to protect private giving and educate lawmakers about the critical role of charitable organizations in a free society.

Registration: Detailed programming will be announced in the near future. To register for the ACR Summit as well as other events of Foundations on the Hill, click here. Attendance at the ACR Summit is free of charge.

Consider This – Go Big

You’ve heard the saying, “go big or go home.”

Well, we aren’t going home, but the charitable community should be thinking about going big.

Over the last decade we’ve seen several proposals that would cap or limit the charitable deduction. And the policymakers who have advocated for those proposals are significant – President Donald Trump, President Barack Obama, Presidential-nominee Mitt Romney, and the then-Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Congressman Dave Camp, just to name a few.

We have been playing defense. But this year – a year where tax reform looks more likely than it has in a long time – we need to be on offense. We should be talking about expanding a deduction that has done a demonstrable amount of good over the last 100 years.  As we have mentioned, earlier this week House Ways and Means Chairman Brady (R-TX) said, “We’re looking for ways to unlock more charitable giving.”

We ought to be thinking about a charitable deduction that includes taxpayers who don’t itemize. In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that expanding the charitable deduction to include all taxpayers would increase charitable giving by about 1 percent annually.  That may not sound like much but when you do the math, that 1 percent translates to a $3.73 billion annual increase in giving. That’s nothing to sneeze at in our view.

So let’s think about going big. As the government is expected to shrink over the next few years, the charitable community will be leaned on, as we have been in the past, to fill in the gaps.

Top Reads

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