Charitable tax deduction in jeopardy

Why you should weigh in on the future of deductions for charitable giving

“Fiscal cliff.”

Talk of an impending economic doomsday has been dominating the headlines for most Americans over the past few weeks.

But we who work in nonprofit marketing, fundraising and development have also been focused on something that hits just as close to home: the future of the charitable tax deduction.

The issue is whether the federal government will move to eliminate, or dramatically reduce, the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions. This one change in the tax code will enable our government to hang on to an additional $50 billion.

Nothing in my memory has united the nonprofit community in the way that opposition to this proposal has. The issue is dominating blogs, the websites of nonprofits and editorials in our industry’s trade journals.

And who can blame them? What’s at stake is the $300 billion that Americans contribute to charities each year.

From where I sit, any significant reduction in giving to charities would ultimately mean less help for the people who need it most — people who are daily facing their own “fiscal cliff.”

Where will these people go if they lose access to the safety net that nonprofits provide?

Personally, I appreciate that across the discussion, many thoughtful folks have prompted us to remember motivation — the reasons why we give.

But while I truly believe that our giving should come from the heart and God’s calling, a tax deduction is a secondary benefit that many enjoy. We’d be naïve not to believe that for lots of people, especially affluent Americans, a tax advantage isn’t at least a powerful secondary motivator.

But either way, I think that we who help nonprofits do meaningful, life-transforming work should be aware of the issue and act — and then encourage those around us to do likewise.

Please take a moment to view this short but very compelling video, called “The Charitable Deduction: Loophole or Lifeline?” I think it offers a balanced view on the issue. 

And then, if you feel led, contact the White House at 202-456-1111 and give the operator this message for the President:

“The proposed limit on charitable deductions hurts frontline nonprofits serving those in need. Please don’t limit charitable deductions.”

Please contact your congressmen and senators as well. Only by influencing all members in the fiscal cliff debate can we ensure that the charitable tax deduction is preserved.

I think it’s the right thing to do — not just for nonprofits, but for those we ultimately serve: “the least of these.”

Lee Wilhite