Current Congress Unlikely to Cap Charitable Deduction

Uncertainty surrounds prospects for charitable IRA rollovers and other temporary tax benefits

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Nonprofits are breathing a little easier these days, less worried than they had been about Congress capping the charitable tax deduction.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, citing nonprofit experts, recently reported that the deduction would likely remain intact during the current session of Congress. These observers were less certain about the prospects for other tax breaks that benefit charity, however.

The report said that a change in leadership of the Senate Finance Committee would make changes in the charitable tax deduction this year very remote, as the likely new chairman, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), is a strong supporter of the deduction.

Experts expected Wyden to move more slowly than his predecessor, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who had pressed for a major tax overhaul before he retired from Congress in December.

Cobbling together a tax bill this year in the run-up to November midterm elections would be difficult, they said.

“There’s zero percent chance any significant tax reform will happen this year,” Foundation Source executive vice president Andrew Schulz told The Chronicle.

The reported noted, however, that the absence of a tax bill meant that other tax priorities of nonprofits are in a perilous state.

A big target is a set of some 55 temporary tax breaks — some of which benefit charities — that expired at the end of last year.

The report said Congress has regularly extended these temporary tax breaks, but has sometimes waited until late in the year and then provided the benefits retroactively.

The tax breaks include one that allows people at least 70-1/2 years old to withdraw up to $100,000 from their IRA accounts without an income tax penalty if they roll over the amount to charity.

Observers told The Chronicle that Congress would probably extend the tax breaks again, given the large number of nonprofits that would benefit. But they acknowledged that swift action would be difficult, with political tensions between Democrats and Republicans expected to heat up in coming months.

That means the tax breaks would be passed later in the year, which would dilute the effectiveness of some benefits, such as the IRA rollover.

“The donors that are incentivized to make the IRA rollover are trying to make some pretty complicated financial decisions,” Steve Taylor, a public policy executive at United Way Worldwide, told The Chronicle.

“By that time, they’ve already withdrawn the money and done something else with it.”

Nonprofit leaders said the uncertainty surrounding the IRA rollover tax break made it difficult to solicit donations from donors who might not otherwise make gifts.

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