Friday, November 25, 2011

Guest column: Tax code changes will hurt charitable giving

By Joe Geiger

The message coming out of Washington recently would lead one to believe that if we simply did away with tax deductions, we could provide a material reduction in our nation's deficit problem. Consider who would benefit from elimination of such deductions. Not the person volunteering at the local fire department or emergency services. Not the people benefiting from homeless shelters or food banks. Not the people who desperately need welfare support. Not the cultural community. In fact none of the services that provide quality of life in the community will benefit. Indeed, only government would benefit.

Healthy communities are like a three legged stools. The legs, government, business and community benefit must be balanced and strong in their own right, working collaboratively to perform their purpose. Tax deductions allow government to be less occupied by quality of life issues so that it can focus on the issues intended for government. Tax deductions incentivize citizens to support local community benefit projects that are critical in America’s design. Government thinks they know how to allocate our money better than us.

A Gallop USA Today Poll in April of this year tells us something about the support for charitable tax deduction. "78 percent of those who claim a charitable tax deduction and 62 percent who do not claim a charitable tax deduction are opposed to its elimination." Gallop points out that "the elimination is complicated by the high levels of opposition to eliminating tax deduction among those who do not personally benefit … a group that in theory could be supportive." The report further goes on to say that "72 percent of registered Democrats, 73 percent of registered Republicans and 65 percent of Independents are opposed to the elimination of the charitable tax deduction."

A radical change to the charity tax deduction will unbalance the system. My experience is that people are motivated by the request for contributions. Americans value the services provided by community benefit organizations. The tax deduction further incentives donors to stretch their gift. Eliminating or reducing charitable tax deductions is wrong thinking.

Joe Geiger is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations in Harrisburg. His email is For more information, visit

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