Advocacy Alert: Dec. 19

Advocating for the Charitable Deduction

On December 5, I joined 230 nonprofits from around the country – including Alliance board member Laura Foster and several other museum leaders – in the Protect Giving – DC Days, an advocacy day to save the charitable deduction.

With one-third of museum operating budgets coming from charitable contributions, the Alliance was proud to join in this sector-wide Capitol Hill advocacy effort to oppose any proposal to limit the tax deduction for charitable donations.

I was grouped with representatives from a public hospital, a state university, Volunteers of America, religious charities, and others to make our case to members of Congress and their staff. The case boils down to three key points:

  • The charitable sector greatly impacts the economy, providing 10% of all jobs nationwide (a total of 13.5 million, making it the 3rd largest industry).  
  • Charitable giving is unique among other tax deductions in that it encourages individuals to give away a portion of their income to those in need – unlike other deductions which provide direct benefit to taxpayers. For every $1 in deductions claimed, charities receive $3 to provide necessary services. 
     
  • The charitable deduction directly benefits the most needy in our community. Charities are able to provide goods and services quickly and more effectively than government. While federal and state budgets are shrinking, private philanthropy fills the gap or works in tandem with government to protect the most vulnerable among us.

During visits with both House and Senate offices, we met with members of Congress, senior Congressional staff, and junior Congressional staff. In some cases, the member of Congress had a firmly established position on the charitable deduction. Others were unfamiliar with the mechanics and benefits of the deduction. In most cases, the office was interested in hearing more about how charitable contributions directly benefitted their community. See the below examples of questions raised by Congressional offices, and how we responded.

Each year, I ask the museum field to participate in Museums Advocacy Day, which will next take place on February 25-26, 2013. And after participating in several advocacy days – including this recent effort – I am more convinced than ever how important it is to make a unified case to Congress.

Just yesterday, we heard that President Obama and Congressional leaders were close to agreeing on a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff which would reportedly limit the charitable deduction. While these negotiations will hopefully conclude by year’s end, the charitable deduction could be at risk in 2013, either in President Obama’s FY14 budget or in Congress as it considers comprehensive tax reform.

The Alliance urges everyone who cares about the long-term sustainability of museums to advocate on this critical issue. Learn more about how you can help by visiting www.aam-us.org/advocacy, and join us in Washington, DC Feb. 25-26 for Museums Advocacy Day to make our case. Remember, Alliance members participate for free!

P.S. - Please remember the Alliance in your end-of-year giving. Your tax-deductible contribution will help us further our ongoing field-wide advocacy efforts: www.aam-us.org/about-us/give/areas-of-support/advocacy-fund.

Advocating for the Charitable Deduction - What We Heard from Congressional Offices

“Does the deduction only benefit the wealthy?” they asked.
Not at all, our group explained. In fact research has shown that taxpayers at all income levels claim the charitable deduction at equal rates.

“How do you know that contributions will decline?” they wanted to know.
We replied that the research compiled by Giving USA showed that charitable giving would decline by $5.6 billion if the president’s proposed limit was enacted.

“Can you really expect that the charitable deduction should be singled out for protection in these tight budget negotiations?” they inquired.
Again, we had the data to respond: the United Way found that 67% of Americans are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.

They wondered, “Is one of the current proposals preferable over another (e.g. a limitation on the value of deductions or a monetary cap on all deductions)?” All are problematic, we replied. Our position is that any proposal that cuts the charitable deduction would be extremely harmful and therefore completely unacceptable.

When we described how the charitable deduction helps diverse community organizations – from soup kitchens and public hospitals to ministries and emergency relief, and, of course, museums of all kinds – we helped members of Congress and their staff understand the issue in a tangible and relevant way.