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Advocacy & Policy: Current Activity

Tax Reform Positions 

November 2017

Changes in tax policies have a direct and indirect influence on household charitable donations. From the perspective of a community foundation, the proposed tax-law changes are threatening to the triple bottom lines we most closely monitor:

  • The quality of life for the most vulnerable people in Metro Denver.
  • The support for charitable giving and growing the culture of philanthropy.
  • The financial stability and mission achievement of nonprofit organizations.

With those bottom lines in mind, The Denver Foundation is taking positions on the following provisions of the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act H.R. 1.

Strongly Support: Universal Deduction for Charitable Giving

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposes doubling the standard deduction. Experts predict that raising the standard deduction will eliminate the incentive for the charitable tax deduction for 95% of taxpayers. To mitigate unintended negative consequences of tax reform on charitable giving in Metro Denver, we encourage you to call on Congress to enact a universal charitable deduction, making the charitable deduction available to all taxpayers, whether or not they itemize.

Senator James Lankford's Universal Charitable Giving Act (S.2123) allows 100 percent of taxpayers to deduct their charitable contributions. Non-itemizers can deduct contributions up to 1/3 of the standard deduction.

A universal "above-the-line" charitable deduction available to all Americans—regardless of income—is a more equitable approach to incentivize philanthropy. It is estimated that 100 million Americans do not benefit from the charitable deduction because of their itemizer status. Yet, as a percentage of income, Americans who earn the least give six times more than Americans who earn the most. Universal access to a charitable tax deduction will benefit all givers, whether they be the wealthiest of donors or everyday people giving back in their local communities.

Read the study on tax policy and charitable giving commissioned by Independent Sector. A universal deduction is also supported by Council on Foundations, United Philanthropy ForumAlliance for Charitable Reform, National Council of Nonprofits, Colorado Association of Funders, and the Colorado Nonprofit Association, among many other organizations.

Read more about the universal deduction at The Nonprofit Times.

Strongly Oppose: Changes to the Johnson Amendment

The Foundation is also in favor of maintaining the Johnson Amendment; it ensures the independence of the nonprofit sector. In a highly politicized nation, nonprofits and houses of worship are safe spaces for people to come together to build stronger communities. An independent nonprofit sector protects organizations—and those who are served—from the influence of campaign politics and partisanship. More than 5,500 nonprofits across the nation have signed a community letter in support of nonpartisanship.

Take Action

Thanks to our friends at Colorado Nonprofit Association, there are easy pathways to take action. Learn more about asking your Members of Congress to support a universal deduction and remove provisions weakening the Johnson Amendment on their Policy Update page.

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