|George Will, photo by Washington Post|
Columnist George Will applauds the Senate Finance Committee for aiming to simplify the tax code but neglects to note that when Committee leaders put every tax deduction on the table, they opened the door to misdirected assaults on charity.
Targeting the charitable gift tax deduction became alarmingly clear in meetings I participated in recently with four senators and staff of the Senate Finance Committee. One of the most insidious cuts under consideration would eliminate deductions for gifts to charities such as universities, the arts and churches that do not provide sufficient tangible services to be deemed a "public benefit."
The 100-year-old tax deduction for gifts given "exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, or educational purposes" enforces the First Amendment's proscription against government infringement of the free exercise of religion. Imagine the IRS determining which churches and faith-based charities merit approval for tax deductions.
Cutting the charitable gift tax deduction would decrease giving and cut an estimated $140 billion in charitable services to needy Americans.
Congress should take aim at real tax reform while protecting charity and those who depend on it. Charity is not a loophole; it's a lifeline.