Washington Watch: Charitable Tax Policy Trends | An Interview by Laura Leonard
An Interview by Laura Leonard
Outcomes recently spoke with Rhett Butler, director of government relations at Gammon & Grange Consulting, LLC (GGC). Butler has more than 18 years of government relations and federal government experience in Washington, D.C.
What is the goal of the Faith & Giving Coalition, and how can Christian leaders engage?
Ministries benefit from healthy public and private generosity, so we’re working to make sure the next round of tax reform encourages strong private giving and philanthropic freedom. The coalition is equipping religious leaders to say and do the right things at the right times; facilitating meetings and communication between religious leaders and lawmakers on the tax-writing committees; and working with partners to raise awareness in the faith community. Any Christian leader whose organization relies on private funding can contact me directly, and I’ll add them to the coalition’s private email list. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is the current climate in Washington regarding charitable giving?
It’s not bad, but I wish it were friendlier. Lawmakers face a lot of pressure to raise new federal revenue; they generally support charities and giving, but are more willing to trim charity-related tax provisions.
We saw that tension in the Tax Reform Act of 2014. Some recent analysis shows that the Tax Reform Act could cause private giving to drop by as much as $30 billion annually. Personally, I think that number is conservative because it doesn’t include the proposed disincentives for donating appreciated property or the proposed limitations on donor advised funds and private foundations.
We want lawmakers to understand that charitable giving is not revenue lost but revenue found. They need to see firsthand how charitable giving benefits their constituents and to be reminded that private giving is a powerful engine for good in society.
How vital is it for leaders of Christian nonprofits to understand and engage on federal issues today?
It’s as vital now as ever, but we have to approach this with our hearts and heads in the right place. First, our hope is in an eternal King, and we’re citizens and ambassadors of another kingdom. Everything flows from there.
Second, we’ve been given truly unique and hard-won freedoms in America. Our eternal hope should make us more faithful, not less faithful, stewards of those gifts.
Third, we’re at a point culturally, demographically, politically, and legally that leaves us few options if we want those freedoms to last. Either more Christians commit to thoughtfully engaging more policymakers on more issues, or they don’t and we make peace with the many undesirable consequences.
Today’s post is an excerpt from the 2015 Winter Edition of Outcomes Magazine. Rhett Butler will lead a workshop at The Outcomes Conference: CLA Dallas 2015, April 14–16, 2015 entitled “Happy Tax (Reform) Day” that reviews federal tax reform proposals that could impact Christian nonprofit ministries.
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