Federal | Federal Legislation

ACR Signs Letter Calling for Charity-Related Provisions to be Made Permanent

The Alliance for Charitable Reform has signed onto an open letter to Congress written by Independent Sector urging lawmakers to “make permanent the provisions in the America Gives More Act (H.R. 4719) before the end of 2014.”

“This package of five charitable provisions includes renewing and making permanent three expired tax extender provisions: the IRA charitable rollover, the enhanced deduction for donating land conservation easements, and the enhanced deduction for donating food inventory. Also included is a measure to extend through April 15 the deadline for claiming charitable donations on the previous year’s tax filing and a measure to simplify to 1 percent the excise tax rate for private foundations’ investment income.”

The letter was issued on November 18 and can be read in full by going here.

Good Giving | Success Stories

Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

2012: Speeding Safe Shale-gas Production

In 2012, two major philanthropists—oil-and-gas pioneer George Mitchell and Wall Street entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg—announced a joint effort by their foundations to encourage safe and efficient production of natural gas via shale fracking. They proposed to head off problems through “common-sense” state rules and voluntary adoption of best practices by the industry. The two foundations put up millions of dollars for efforts to improve fracking by minimizing water concerns, reducing methane leaks, optimizing well construction, disclosing chemical usage, and reducing local impacts on roads, land, and communities.

In 2013, a related collaboration of philanthropic organizations, oil and gas companies, and environmental groups established a Center for Sustainable Shale Development. It set 15 voluntary standards for improving shale-gas production in the Appalachian region, and encourages drilling companies to earn certificates of operational excellence by meeting criteria monitored by an independent auditor. It is working with states to encourage sensible rules that will avoid environmental problems which could damage public support for hydraulic fracturing. The significance of this can be seen in the fact that fracking has become one of the most consequential economic, environmental, and national-security innovations of our time—turning the U.S. into the world’s largest gas producer in 2010, and the world’s largest oil producer in 2013.

ACR News 11.14.14 - The Election: What Happened and What Does It Mean?

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: The Balance of Congress & Leadership Changes
>> Federal: Senate Finance Committee
>> Federal: House Ways & Means Committee
>> Federal: Lame Duck
>> Federal: What the Election Means for Tax Reform
>> Federal: Key Dates
>> Federal: ACR in Action
>> Consider This: Consider This: What Does it Mean?
>> Top Reads: GOP’s Senate Wins Boost Prospects of Tax Changes for Nonprofits

Washington Roundup

Congress returned to Washington on Wednesday after the midterm elections last Tuesday, November 4. Republicans reclaimed control of the U.S. Senate by gaining eight seats, with one state still outstanding, and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. This outcome means Republicans will control the tax reform process on both sides of Capitol Hill for at least the next two years.

The Balance of Congress & Leadership Changes

The big news is that Republicans took control of the Senate, picking up eight seats and giving them a majority of at least 53 to 46. While many expected the Senate to flip, few believed it was going to be by such a wide margin. Louisiana will hold a runoff on December 6 between incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. Neither of those candidates earned the required 50 percent plus-1 margin necessary to win the seat outright. Senator Landrieu faces an uphill battle in the runoff: RealClearPolitics polling averages show her trailing Cassidy by 4.8 points.

Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was elected on Thursday to take over as Majority Leader next year. His deputies are also set to take over leadership positions accordingly. Current Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was also elected on Thursday as the Senate Minority Leader.

In the House, Republicans increased their margin of control to their largest majority since World War II. Current Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will remain in charge, as will other top Republicans in leadership, following elections in the House Republican Conference on Thursday. For the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to remain Minority Leader and her deputies are expected to maintain their posts as well. House Democrats will hold their elections next week. 

It is worth noting the Republicans also netted four additional governorships and firmly bucked what was expected to be anti-incumbent fervor across the country. Notably, Republicans picked up two key swing states – Ohio and Florida. This could have a significant impact on the 2016 Presidential election.

Senate Finance Committee

Barring any unforeseen events, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is expected to become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. But there will be other changes to the committee that will be worked out over the coming weeks.

The first task for Senate Republicans will be determining how large each Senate committee should be, and then the ratio of Republican members to Democrat members. These ratios are negotiated by leaders in both parties and typically reflect the Senate’s overall breakdown. Currently, there are 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans on Finance, which is approximately the same proportion as in the entire Senate.

Senate Republicans also have their own rules that determine how committee members are chosen, term limits for chairmen, and limits on how many “Super A Committees” (Finance, Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations) senators can join.

Under these rules, the party leader gets to fill odd-numbered committee openings, and even-number openings are based on seniority. So if there were only one GOP opening on a committee, Republican leader McConnell would fill the seat with the senator of his choosing. If there were two open slots, McConnell would name one, and the second would go to the most senior candidate hoping to join the committee. 

On the Finance Committee, Republicans will likely add at least one new member to reflect their new majority. Early reports suggest that Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) are frontrunners. Democrats will likely shrink their ranks first by not replacing retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), but Virginia Senator Mark Warner could be dropped since he is the most junior Democrat on the panel.

House Ways & Means Committee

While the House majority will remain Republican, the GOP increased its margin and will get to fill a few more seats on the Ways and Means Committee. According to a source on the Hill, committee chairs and new member assignments for the next Congress could be finalized as early as this week, but may also carry over into next week.

In terms of process, the members of the House Republican Steering Committee are in charge of choosing new members for open committee seats. Per their rules, Speaker John Boehner has five of the 36 votes for each seat, but his influence goes beyond just those five votes. Unless there is a highly contested slot, most members follow the Speaker’s lead. The Steering Committee met this week and consulted its regional representatives to identify potential candidates for open slots on all House committees. Committee chairmanship selections, however, are far more political and often take place behind closed doors, even though the same Steering Committee oversees that process as well. 

With Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) retiring and the election now over, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) formally announced his intentions to seek the Ways and Means gavel. It is likely he will face a challenge from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), but Ryan is widely considered the favorite. While every other Ways and Means member won re-election, Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Tim Griffin (R-AR) are retiring at the end of this year. For the Democrats, Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) unsuccessfully ran for governor and had to give up her seat. 

With Ryan taking the gavel, there are four total spots to be filled on Ways and Means, in addition to those spots reflecting the new House majority. Reports suggest that Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) are the top candidates to fill two of the three vacancies on the majority side. A clear contender for the third spot has yet to emerge, though a number of candidates have been mentioned, including Representatives George Holding (R-NC), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Tom Rice (R-SC), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Jason Smith (R-MO). On the Democratic side, current Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to fill the available position left by Rep. Schwartz.

Lame Duck

Between now and Thanksgiving, the House will set party leadership and organize committee makeups. Since one Senate race will be decided in December, and control will flip to the Republicans, committee assignments and official leadership positions could be set at a later date.

The “must-do” legislative items will then have to be resolved after Congress returns from Thanksgiving. Current government funding is slated to expire on December 11 and extending this funding is a top priority for both parties. We expect Republicans to aim for a long term spending bill that funds the government through most of next year. Also on the priority list is a tax extenders bill – one that renews nearly 60 short-term tax incentives that expire on an annual basis, including the IRA charitable rollover. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on November 7 that he hopes to reach a bipartisan deal on the extenders package during the lame duck period, though it remains unclear if a final package will include some of the additional provisions in the America Gives More Act, which passed the House earlier this year. ACR and our colleagues in the sector are currently working to help pass these provisions before the end of the year.

Other items also remain on the table. We expect outgoing Majority Leader Reid to make a strong push for confirming the remaining Presidential appointments while he still has control of the Senate. This could lead to a heated debate, given the GOP’s anger over Reid’s handling of other nominees earlier this year, and potentially derail some of the issues discussed above. As of this writing, Reid has not announced his intentions. Larger issues, such as legislation to permanently extend authorization for the Export-Import Bank (current authorization expires in June, 2015), immigration reform, and comprehensive tax reform are unlikely to be taken up before the end of the year. 

What the Election Means for Tax Reform

We believe that progress will be made on tax reform in the next Congress. Incoming leaders of both tax-writing committees have stated they view comprehensive reform as a top priority. Other Members have also chimed in: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would urge Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up tax reform in January. Representative Brady noted there is “no question in [his] mind that a Republican-held Senate enhances the likelihood of a Senate tax draft in this next session.” Incoming Majority Leader McConnell specifically mentioned tax reform as one area of possible compromise with Democrats, and Speaker Boehner recently listed tax reform at the top of his “five key things we should do as a nation.”

At the very least, Republicans and Democrats alike have called for revamping the corporate tax code and this could be the catalyst for undertaking the individual side as well. Comprehensive reform or not, the window for such legislation is small given the 2016 Presidential election on the horizon.

Key Dates

  • Mid-November: House and Senate leadership elections
  • Mid-November or Early December: Congressional Committee leadership appointments
  • December 6: Louisiana Senate runoff
  • December 11: Continuing Resolution expires
  • January 5, 2015: 114th Congress convenes and House Speaker is sworn in
  • Late January: State of the Union
  • February 2: President’s FY 2016 budget due
  • March 15: End of suspension of debt limit
  • May 31: Expiration of the current Highway Bill, which has a tax component

ACR in Action

ACR Executive Director Sandra Swirksi recently participated in an event sponsored by the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy and Charities project that explored ways that existing charitable giving incentives, along with new platforms and better practices, can be leveraged to encourage philanthropy.

Additionally, Joanne Florino, senior vice president for public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable, participated in a panel discussion on tax reform this morning at the Southeastern Council of Foundation’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Consider This: What does it mean?

Well the election is over and most (think Alaska) but not all of the votes have been counted. Still it is clear that Republicans had a very good evening, retaining control of the House by an ever wider margin and taking control of the Senate.

What does it mean? In the Senate, every senator is a king (or queen) of sorts. Whether your party is up or down, you still can exert power, mostly by throwing a wrench in the works via a filibuster threat. However, controlling the Senate also means you have significant control over the “conversation.” You get to schedule the hearings, choose the topics and set the floor schedule. Being in charge is significant.

What we also know is that with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, there will be tremendous outside pressure to deliver on Republican priorities. One of those priorities is tax reform. Be prepared for a fulsome debate over the next year on that topic. Add to that the fact that in 2016, the Republicans will have to defend more than twice as many seats as Democrats, meaning that the Senate could very well flip again. The pressure is definitely ratcheted up on Senate Republicans to get something done in the next two years to show voters they deserve to keep their majority.

But first, we have to get through the lame duck. The tenor between the two parties coming out of that lame duck – be it amicable, or confrontational, or something in between – will tell us much about how the next two years play out and whether there is a real shot at getting substantive legislation to the President’s desk that he will actually sign. As we’ve said so many times before, stay tuned.

Top Reads

Please feel free to email us at info@acreform.com if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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BLOG: Post-Election Analysis

A lot happened as a result of Tuesday’s elections and we are here to help you sort through it all. Below is a brief analysis of the election results and a glimpse at what we can expect in the makeup of congressional leadership as well as the tax writing committees.

Continue reading…

BLOG: ACR Expertise Highlighted in Coverage of Elections

A couple of articles published and circulated Wednesday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy featured comments from staff and a member of the Alliance for Charitable Reform regarding the results of Tuesday’s elections. The Chronicle interviewed several nonprofit leaders, including ACR Executive Director Sandra Swirski, for an article analyzing the prospects of tax reform with Republicans taking control of the Senate and expanding its membership in the House of Representatives.

Continue reading…

Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1909 Milton Hershey School

Chocolatier Milton Hershey didn’t invent the candy bar, but he was the first to transform it from expensive delicacy to treat affordable by all, and in the process he became very wealthy. He and his sickly wife, Kitty, were unable to have children, so they decided to give their sweet fortune to orphans and other needy boys living in hardscrabble—something Milton understood well, after a peripatetic childhood and education that ended at fourth grade, due to a father who left his family for long periods of time. In 1909, Hershey signed over to his new Hershey Industrial School, a fully operating 486-acre farm that included the homestead where he had been born. In 1918 he went much further, placing all of his shares in the Hershey Chocolate Company in a trust whose sole purpose was to benefit the school. He kept the transfer secret until it was revealed in a 1923 interview with the New York Times, when he explained that “I have no heirs, so I have decided to make the orphan boys of the United States my heirs.” To this day, the school retains controlling interest in the Fortune 500 Hershey Company, the Hershey park entertainment complex, and other businesses.

Right up until Milton Hershey’s death in 1945 (at which point his only assets were his home and its furnishings, having given away everything else while he was still alive) he remained intimately involved in the running of the school. He made sure his boys (and now girls too) received very practical upbringings, “a thorough common school education, supplemented by instruction in the useful crafts.” He had three goals for every graduate: a vocation, a love of God and man, and a sense of wholesome responsibility. “We do not intend to turn out a race of professors,” he noted. Students had to build their own beds and chests in the school carpentry shop, and keep up with a host of chores, including twice-daily milking of the school’s cows. The milking requirement for students continued until 1989, as the curriculum gradually shifted toward college preparation. Highly structured chores requirements remain, as does mandatory chapel time on Sunday. And to this day, active work in the school’s agricultural, animal, and environmental centers (for example, a fish hatchery operated on the trout stream running through campus) are an important part of its efforts to promote initiative and responsibility.

Beyond this emphasis on individual commitment, discipline, and work, Hershey is renowned for creating an authentically personal, warm, and nurturing environment. Students live in groups of 10-12, two or three to a bedroom, in more than a hundred closely clustered houses overseen by a married couple with childrearing experience. A transitional living program places seniors in quasi-independent apartments, where they get help in buying and preparing their own food, setting their schedules, and running their own lives in preparation for college or self-support after graduation. More than three quarters of graduates now go on to four-year college, just shy of ten percent enter the work force or military, and the remainder attend technical or two-year college. With 1,900 pre-K to twelfth-grade students—most with missing, deceased, or jailed parents and other disadvantages—today’s Milton Hershey School is the largest boarding school in America, and its $11 billion endowment, larger than all but a few universities, allows it to offer its education (including large scholarships for college) and superb care (including things like intensive counseling, orthodontia, all food and clothing) entirely free to each child.

ACR News 10.31.14—Lincoln’s Ghost…and a Policy Update

>> Federal: Lincoln’s Ghost
>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: ACR Advisory Council on the Hill
>> Federal: How Philanthropy Changed My Life
>> Consider This: Consider This: Tax Reform Following the Midterms
>> Top Reads: Donor-Advised Fund Spend-Down Proviso May Be Cut From Future Tax Overhaul Drafts

Lincoln’s Ghost

While we typically lead off the newsletter with the Washington Roundup, today it gets bumped in favor of a Halloween “Did you know?” about Abraham Lincoln’s ghost, courtesy of National Geographic.

“While staying at the White House in the 1940s, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill—who disliked sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom—emerged naked from a bathtub and walked into an adjoining room. There, he supposedly ran right into Lincoln, who was leaning on the mantle above the fireplace. They looked each other in the face, to Churchill’s embarrassment, and Lincoln abruptly vanished, according to an account in Mark Nesbitt’s book Civil War Ghost Trails: Stories from America’s Most Haunted Battlefields.”

Happy Halloween!

Washington Roundup

As the midterm election approaches, Capitol Hill is nearly deserted—to the delight of the ghosts who haunt the Hill’s hallways—as lawmakers remain focused on their campaigns at home. Off the Hill, at a conference hosted by the D.C. Bar Association last week, House Ways and Means Committee majority tax staff said the Committee is still receiving feedback on Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) tax reform discussion draft from “all kinds of stakeholders.” One staffer added that the Committee is open to altering some provisions, singling out the five-year spend-down requirement for donor-advised funds as an area they are “definitely looking at.” ACR has worked on this issue since the draft was released and we are encouraged to see that our outreach has made an impact.

Another Camp tax staffer also spoke at the event and said there’s “a good chance that [tax reform] will move forward in the next Congress” under a new Chairman. He pointed to ongoing interest from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) as another positive sign of continuing momentum on tax reform. While Chairman Camp will no longer be Chair in the next Congress, we do expect the next presumed Chair, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), to have a keen interest in tax reform as well.

Meanwhile, speculation continues as to whether current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will push to complete all must-pass legislation before the end of the year—should Republicans take control of the Senate—or wait to take up those issues next year. Among these issues is passing tax extenders, or annually expiring tax provisions, which include the IRA charitable rollover provision. We will continue to keep you updated as the process unfolds.

ACR Advisory Council on the Hill

As you may recall, the ACR Strategy Committee met with Ways and Means tax staff in July to discuss our reaction to the Camp draft. Last week, ACR’s Advisory Council also met with committee staff to provide more technical feedback on ACR’s concerns with the draft, and to propose a few alternatives for the Committee to consider as work toward tax reform continues.

How Philanthropy Changed My Life

We would like to share one more video from the Annual Meeting of The Philanthropy Roundtable, which was held a few weeks ago in Salt Lake City, Utah. The concluding session, “How Philanthropy Changed My Life,” featured three American leaders who owe their successes to the creative giving a free society makes possible. Jason Tejada, one of over 139,000 Children’s Scholarship Fund recipients, chronicled his journey in New York City from Incarnation School to Columbia University to a career in finance. Another speaker was Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies and one of the scientists portrayed in the movie “Jurassic Park.” Jack’s Hell Creek Project, largely underwritten by philanthropy, led to fossil discoveries that have significantly advanced understanding of the growth of dinosaurs. The final speaker was Brent Adams, who founded the animation department at Brigham Young University. With the help of philanthropy, he confronted that pedagogical challenge and created a multi-disciplinary model across the engineering, computer science, and fine arts colleges at BYU.

Consider This: Tax Reform Following the Midterms

With less than a week to go before the election, we don’t know for sure if Republicans will take control of the Senate, but we suspect they will. What does that mean for general policy and tax reform in particular?

If Republicans do take control of the Senate, we believe that leadership in both the House and Senate will want to put some semi-controversial issues away during the lame duck – issues like funding the government beyond December 11 and extending tax provisions like the IRA charitable rollover. While that may be the goal, things are often easier said than done.

On tax reform, the bar seems to be set high. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a leader in the House, went so far as to say that if Republicans take the Senate, “it’s a put-up or shut-up moment for us” on tax reform. On the Senate side, the presumed Chair of the Finance Committee if Republicans take control, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has made it clear that tax reform is his top priority. His Democratic colleague, current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), has been making pitches for tax reform as well. Even a former high ranking Obama Administration official, Gene Sperling, has chimed in to say that corporate tax reform might be doable in the next Congress. We take that as a signal that the Administration is thinking seriously about tax reform.

Regardless of which party is in control, we expect significant activity on taxes next year. However, as we know, dragging something far-reaching across the finish line for a Presidential signature is going to be tricky.

Top Reads

Please feel free to email us at info@acreform.com if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

2002 - Boosting Electronic Health Records

Electronic health records that are consistent, interchangeable, and accessible by consumers and health professionals from anywhere will be essential to many future advances in health care, including medicine that is personalized to the patient, better quality control, and reduction of duplication and waste that inflates prices. It’s estimated that electronic health records could save more than $100 billion in unnecessary medical costs.

Back in 2002, when universal electronic records were just starting to be discussed seriously, the Markle Foundation put up $2 million to launch Connecting for Health. The foundation acted as a neutral convener on this contentious topic, bringing together computer experts, medical professionals, insurers, government, and other interested parties—rejecting no one who wanted to participate. When the effort began to show promise, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation became a partner and put additional millions into supporting regular exchanges of information among participants.

In 2003, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced, while offering thanks to the Markle Foundation, that the standards produced out of the Connecting for Health meetings would be adopted by the federal government as it moved toward personal electronic health records. Duke University’s philanthropy center concluded that because of its inclusive and neutral approach, the Markle Foundation’s contribution was crucial. “The value added by Markle’s participation has been widely recognized. As a private foundation, Markle was able to fill a key niche: that of the convener. No other entity, public or private, would have been able to conduct the discussions that led to the Connecting for Health standards.”

Donor-Advised Fund Spend-Down Proviso May Be Cut From Future Tax Overhaul Drafts

By Diane Freda, Bloomberg BNA

Reproduced with permission from Daily Tax Report, 204 DTR G-7 (Oct. 22, 2014). Copyright 2014 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

Oct 21 - A five-year spend-down requirement for donor-advised funds might be eliminated in future drafts of the Tax Reform Act of 2014, a House Ways and Means senior staff member said.

“I think it is possible,” Harold Hancock, tax counsel on the committee’s majority staff, said of the controversial DAF proposal currently contained in Rep. Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) discussion draft.

“This is an area we are definitely looking at,” Hancock told practitioners Oct. 21 at a D.C. Bar Taxation Section panel discussion. He said the main motivation of the many exempt proposals in the draft isn’t to generate revenue, but to address policy concerns.

The provision would subject DAFs to a 20 percent excise tax on contributions that aren’t distributed within five years of receipt.

“The fundamental concern is the timing mismatch of the deduction,” said Gordon Clay, legislation counsel with the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

Donors to DAFs get an upfront deduction and there is no requirement that distributions be made from individual accounts. While some DAF accounts make distributions on a regular basis, others make no distributions at all, and Clay said it is the latter scenario that lawmakers are worried about. The timing mismatch between the upfront deduction and when money is paid out from DAFs in the form of grants to other public charities has led to concerns about “asset parking.”

Groups including the Alliance for Charitable Reform and the Jewish Federations of North America have fought the proposal, saying among other things that it will drive donors toward private foundations (108 DTR G-1, 6/5/14).

Single Excise Tax Rate

The provision most likely to succeed in the upcoming lame-duck congressional session is one imposing a single 1 percent rate of excise tax on net investment income for private foundations, Hancock said.

“We’re just waiting for the Senate to see the light and take it up,” he said.

The provision was included in H.R. 4719, which passed the House with bipartisan support. Hancock said the Ways and Means Committee wants it to be part of the discussions on whether to make extenders legislation permanent (153 DTR G-5, 8/8/14).

To contact the reporter on this story: Diane Freda in Washington at dfreda@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cheryl Saenz at csaenz@bna.com

ACR News 10.17.14—Wyden, Hatch, and Boehner Comment on Tax Reform

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Annual Meeting Completed
>> Consider This: Powerful Imagery
>> Top Reads: Give to Charity Like Bill Gates…Without Being Bill Gates

Washington Roundup

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) made a pitch for tax reform last week, urging Congress to renew the expired tax extenders so it can “get to work on a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code and lift the fog of uncertainty from taxpayers.” As you may recall, the Senate’s extenders package includes the IRA charitable rollover. The Wall Street Journal recently reported Congress is “likely to extend the expired rule” as a part of the final extenders bill.

On October 5, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) published a list of “five key things we should do as a nation,” and included tax reform as one of those items. “If we do these five things in a meaningful way…we can bring jobs home and reset the foundation of our economy for generations to come,” Boehner wrote. This is an important roadmap of the priorities for 2015-16 from House leadership.

Also last week, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who would take over as Chair of the committee should Republicans control the Senate next year, said tax reform would be a central focus of his agenda in a Republican-controlled Senate. Hatch noted his reform efforts would promote simplicity and fairness and eliminate the exemptions, exclusions, deductions, and credits that have “excessively riddled” the tax base. He did not mention any specific tax incentives.

Annual Meeting Completed

Last week, The Philanthropy Roundtable completed the 2014 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Annual Meeting is the Roundtable’s premier event for philanthropic decision makers committed to strengthening our free society and to exploring, collaborating, and solving our nation’s greatest problems through meaningful and effective philanthropy. This year’s meeting featured George Will as the keynote speaker and Jon Huntsman, Sr. as the recipient of the 2014 William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, among the many noted speakers and panelists. The Alliance for Charitable Reform conducted three panels at this year’s meeting.

Below is a five minute video of the opening remarks from Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable. Make sure to check our website and YouTube channel in the weeks to come for more videos from this year’s Annual Meeting.

Consider This

Earlier this month, the New York Times published an op-ed on whether or not lowering the private foundation excise tax on investment earnings makes sense. We won’t get into the pros and cons of that discussion, but our hackles were certainly raised by the characterization of private foundations in that piece as “warehouses of wealth.”

That’s powerful imagery. Think Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve counting money and chasing do-gooders out of his office who have the audacity to ask for donations for the poor. Like we said, powerful imagery—but also inaccurate.

The assets judiciously managed by private foundations allow them to have significant impact both today and over a long period of time. Issues like advances in cancer research, global health, and long-term investments in K-12 education are just a few of the issues served by a lasting strategy from private foundations. It is giving with a huge impact – what we describe as transformational giving.

Characterizing private foundations as “warehouses of wealth” is a skewed vision. It is incumbent upon us to set that right by making it clear that there is a lot of good done and bad averted by the work completed by private foundations.

Top Reads

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