Major concerns for US tax breaks for donating to charity

October 28, 2012 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: News

It seems that Obama and Romney are tripping over each other to downsize tax incentives for donations to charities in the US.  Here is an interesting article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled “Nonprofit Leaders Urge Obama and Romney to Protect Tax Break”.  If Obama caps donation incentives at 28% or Romney effectively eliminates incentives for large gifts by capping deductions then it will be interesting to see how this impacts Canada.  Currently the incentives for giving in Canada are far superior to the US.  For example, a wealthy person in Ontario may save 48-65% on their donation (depending on whether it is cash or appreciated marketable securities) .  My specific thought or concern is that as the gap becomes greater, for example Mr. Romney’s proposals are accepted, then some people with assets and income and families in both the US and Canada may increasingly prefer to make the donation in Canada to a Canadian charity or foundation as they will obtain far greater fiscal benefits.

Nonprofit Leaders Urge Obama and Romney to Protect Tax Break
http://philanthropy.com/blogs/government-and-politics/nonprofit-leaders-urge-obama-and-romney-to-protect-tax-break/31090

An interesting letter from a number of US charities with my emphasis:

“The charitable deduction is different than other itemized deductions in that it encourages individuals to give a portion of their income to support worthwhile causes,” the letters said. “It rewards a selfless act, and it encourages taxpayers to give more funds to charities than they would otherwise have given.”

There were 1.8 million US registered charities and over the last 2 years about 400,000 of them have been revoked for non-filing of the 990.  Perhaps the US should do a better job of ensuring that the remaining 1.4 million are really “worthwhile causes” that are deserving of state support.  We have the same problem here in Canada - there is no obligation on the part of charities to show that they have any public benefit.  Secondly, It is interesting they use the phrase ‘selfless act’ - while this is true for many, unfortunately increasingly some of the biggest donations feel more like sponsorship arrangements or mergers/acquisitions than donations.  Perhaps selfless acts should receive tax incentives and less selfless donations or arrangements should receive less incentives or none at all. 

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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.

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