Representatives of more than 200 charitable organizations plan to go door to door Wednesday on Capitol Hill to convince members of Congress that it would be a mistake to eliminate or reduce tax deductions for charitable donations.
“The Congress is desperate to find some revenue,” said Steve Taylor, senior vice president and counsel for public policy for United Way Worldwide, the nation's biggest charity.
“The Democrats want revenue to undo the effects of sequestration," Taylor said, adding that Republicans wanted to reduce or eliminate deductions to lower taxes.
"They have put everything on the table," Taylor said. "They are not singling us out, but the deduction for charitable donations is definitely in the mix.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the 10 biggest federal tax breaks amount to about $900 billion a year.
Charitable deductions, the CBO said, are near the bottom of that list at about $40 billion, well below the biggest: the benefit that workers receive as their employer-sponsored health insurance goes untaxed ($260 billion).
Even though reducing the charitable tax deduction would hardly dent the nation's debt, charitable organizations are still worried.
Proposals to reduce the deduction could cut the roughly $300 billion a year donated to charities by $5 billion to $12 billion, Taylor said.
In 2012, United Way Worldwide raised more than $3.9 billion in private donations.
Taylor said the loss of $10 billion would be like “losing more than two years of all of the work done by the United Way.”
Some of those lobbying Congress today also include much smaller charities, such as St. Baldrick’s Foundation in Monrovia.
The name is a play on words by three Irish guys sitting in a bar on St. Patrick's Day who founded the group, said Peter G. Mayberry, senior manager of legislative affairs for the foundation.
Donors to St. Baldrick's are encouraged to sponsor people who have shaved their heads in sympathy with cancer victims who lose their hair during radiation treatments. (In case you don’t get the word play: "St. Patrick’s" combined with “bald” comes out to St. Baldrick’s.)
St. Baldrick's has raised more than $100 million since 2005 for research on childhood cancer, the year it was incorporated.
Mayberry is concerned that any reduction in the charitable tax deduction would hit his group's contributors hard. Mayberry said his message to Congress would be simple.
“We are going to tell them four words: preserve the charitable deduction,” Mayberry said.
“The basic message is that eliminating or reducing the deduction for charitable donations is going to have unforeseen, negative consequences all across the country,” he added.
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