In taxes, Obama must be clear on charity

1.       The government does not have the money to support all of the vital functions the nonprofit sector provides. Gone are the days of borrow now and pay later. Our government has some tough choices ahead and the needs fulfilled by the nonprofit sector can’t possibly be fulfilled by the government when we have to defend the country and support an aging population. Aside from food pantries, homeless shelters, museums, orchestras, community theaters, zoos and many other organizations that are already struggling will encounter an even bleaker future if, under the current tax code, the charitable deduction is reduced for anybody. We cannot be reliant upon the government to support all our institutions and solve the diverse problems we face.

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2.       In these tough economic times, nonprofits are being relied upon more than ever. Ask any food pantry and they will tell you that the last few years have been banner years for increased need while donations have hardly been keeping up with that need. Many forecast giving will not be making a speedy recovery. So how then does it make sense to reduce any incentive to give right now?

3.       The charitable deduction is different from all other tax incentives. Unlike other tax incentives, the charitable deduction encourages Americans to give away their money for the benefit of others. That fact makes this incentive, above all others, unique and supports my first two reasons why we must protect the incentive to give. It is likely Congress will consider tax reform this year. Whether anything will be achieved remains to be seen, but what is important is that in any discussion, incentives to give for everybody remain a strong part of our tax code. There are reasons so many people open their wallets at the end of the year—first, because it’s the right thing to do and second, because there is an extra incentive to do so. Why not incentivize good behavior?
 
Our nation is at a crossroads as we come to this critical juncture in our fiscal future. We must choose to continue encouraging everybody—the wealthy, the middle class, and everybody in between—to give to charities of their preference. Through individual initiative, the private sector has performed tasks to help society where Government has failed both domestically and internationally.
 
Americans gave away close to $300 billion last year. The reason why people choose to participate in philanthropy is simple: we know how to spend our money better than the government. We have the ability to monitor every dollar spent, and make sure it is spent in the most efficient manner. The impact of privately funded philanthropy over the last century has been imperative to improving our society. If our efforts are hindered by unnecessary government regulations and proposals in Washington to limit giving, the American people will suffer as a result.
 
Hayes is a former five-term Republican from North Carolina (1999-2009), president of the Cannon Charitable Trust, director of the Cannon Foundation, president of the Hayes Family Foundation, and owner of Mount Pleasant Hosiery Mill.