If you missed Obama’s comments last night regarding charitable deductions, I’ve included them here. For the past few weeks, the non-profit sector has been a flutter with commentary on the lowering of charitable deductions for wealthy donors. In summary, instead of deducting 39%, wealthy American will be able to deduct 28% of their charitable giving. While I realize that we are in a recession, charitable donations should not be driven by the deduction you receive on your taxes. As a sector, our stories should compel folks to give. As a people, we should not simply expect to get something when we give.
The debate has gone around and around in the sector, but Obama is right:
When I give $100, I’d get the same amount of deduction as when some, a bus driver who’s making $50,000 a year, or $40,000 a year, gives that same $100. Right now, he gets 28 percent, he gets to write off 28 percent. I get to write off 39 percent. I don’t think that’s fair.
If we believe the work we are doing is valuable, donors will as well. A higher tax deduction shouldn’t make or break our case.
Mike Allen, Politico? Hi, Mike.
Q: Mr. President, are you — thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. Are you reconsidering your plan to cut the interest rate deduction for mortgages and for charities? And do you regret having proposed that in the first place?
OBAMA: No, I think it’s — I think it’s the right thing to do, where we’ve got to make some difficult choices. Here’s what we did with respect to tax policy.
What we said was that, over the last decade, the average worker, the average family have seen their wages and incomes flat. Even in times where supposedly we were in the middle of an economic boom, as a practical matter, their incomes didn’t go up. And so, well, we said, Let’s give them a tax cut. Let’s give them some relief, some help, 95 percent of American families.
Now, for the top 5 percent, they’re the ones who typically saw huge gains in their income. I, I fall in that category. And what we’ve said is, for those folks, let’s not renew the Bush tax cuts, so let’s go back to the rates that existed back in, during the Clinton era, when wealthy people were still wealthy and doing just fine, and let’s look at the, the level at which people can itemize their deductions.
And what we’ve said is: Let’s go back to the rate that existed under Ronald Reagan. People are still going to be able to make charitable contributions. It just means, if you give $100 and you’re in this tax bracket, at a certain point, instead of being able to write off 36 percent or 39 percent, you’re writing off 28 percent.
Now, if it’s really a charitable contribution, I’m assuming that that shouldn’t be the determining factor as to whether you’re giving that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street.
And so this provision would affect about 1 percent of the American people. They would still get deductions. It’s just that they wouldn’t be able to write off 39 percent.
In that sense, what it would do is it would equalize. When I give $100, I’d get the same amount of deduction as when some, a bus driver who’s making $50,000 a year, or $40,000 a year, gives that same $100. Right now, he gets 28 percent, he gets to write off 28 percent. I get to write off 39 percent. I don’t think that’s fair.
So I think this was a good idea. I think it is a realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who’ve benefited enormously over the last several years.
It’s not going to cripple them. They’ll still be well-to-do. And, you know, ultimately, if we’re going to tackle the serious problems that we’ve got, then, in some cases, those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more.