The economy is in a painful slump. Growing numbers of people need help, charities are facing a decline in donations and states are cutting back on services. The April employment report from the Labor Department will show a further increase in the number of unemployed.
Yet, rather than harnessing the generosity of Americans to help out, President Obama has proposed to reduce the tax incentives for charitable giving. He wants Congress to limit to 28 percent the tax saving from contributions for taxpayers who itemize their deductions.
Mr. Obama proposed to use the revenue gained to fund universal health care. He would make the 28 percent cap on the tax saving for contributions take effect in 2011, when he contemplates letting the Bush 2001 tax cuts for upper-income people expire.
The combination of higher rates and a 28 percent cap on the value of deductions for charitable contributions (and mortgage interest) would diminish donations to charities ranging from local churches to national opera companies. Cutbacks on charitable giving would be more pronounced among the well-to-do, not only because they have more to give, but because their tax rates would rise at the same time as their deductions would be limited.
Mr. Obama’s proposal has resulted in opposition from not only charities, but also Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
According to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat: “I’m a little – especially concerned about the 28 percent limitation, which has nothing to do with health care.” And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Congress should preserve the full deduction for charitable donations and look for additional ways to encourage charitable giving, not discourage it.”