On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – the first comprehensive tax reform passed since 1986, under President Reagan. While charitable deductions have been preserved, some non-profit organizations are concerned about a potential drop-off in donations next year. An interview with Steve Taylor, Senior Vice President for Policy at United Way Worldwide.
Traynham: The new federal tax law has dramatically changed the tax benefit of charitable giving, raising concerns about a possible drop-off in donations next year. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. Joining me discuss the tax code and the reaction in the non-profit community is Steve Taylor. He´s Senior Vice President for policy for United Way Worldwide. Steve, welcome to the program.
Taylor: Thanks, Robert. It´s good to be here.
Traynham: I think it´s important to set this up. If memory serves me correctly, the last time that we had comprehensive tax reform was back in 1986. Ronald Reagan was president. And so, a lot of things have changed since the Congress passed their sweeping tax-reform bill and President Trump signed it into law. So the reason I say that, Steve, is because there are a lot of people out there, quite frankly, who do not remember tax reform, so this is a huge, huge deal. My question, specifically, is, what does it mean for the non-profit, philanthropic community?
Taylor: Well, it turns out that tax reform is going to have some pretty dramatic impact on charities. It´s not intentional, we don´t think. Congress actually went out of their way to preserve the charitable deduction. It turns out, though, that a lot of the other changes they made will significantly limit the number of people who will actually have access to the charitable deduction.
Traynham: Do you think that was intentional or do you think that was just an honest mistake?
Taylor: I really think it was an honest mistake. You know, we have a lot of support on Capitol Hill -- Republicans and Democrats. Everybody wants to support charities. A lot of policymakers have histories with charities in their communities and so, generally, I think there´s a lot of support for us, so it´s hard to believe that it was intentional.
Traynham: So, my ears on Capitol Hill -- many members of Congress will often go back and rewrite a law. It´s called a "technical fix," if you will.
Traynham: Is it safe to assume that perhaps maybe members of Congress -- in a bipartisan way, Steve -- may "fix" this bill from a technical standpoint?
Taylor: Well, we hope so. There´s a lot of politics on Capitol Hill right now. Things are so complicated. There was so much work that went into passing this tax bill. Lots of folks are really leery of reopening it, but the reality is that there are just a lot of little things, a lot of little tweaks that need to be fixed. We have a couple of champions on the Hill that have recognized what´s going to happen as a result of the tax bill, and they´re helping us try to get a fix in there.
Traynham: And do you anticipate, just for the folks that are watching at home or perhaps on their smart device or perhaps in their non-profit office, sometime this year, maybe early part of 2018 or perhaps maybe in 2019?
Taylor: Well, we´re hoping for sooner than later. If we can get the fix in this year, then that will largely mitigate any damage to charitable giving. The longer this problem remains in the tax code, the longer we expect charitable giving to go down, and nobody really wants private charitable giving to go down in the U.S.
Traynham: Steve, my assumption is that most people in America give because they care. Perhaps maybe there is some type of personal connection to an organization, whatever the case may be, do you think that will change under this tax law or, quite frankly, do you think some people just give for a tax break?
Taylor: Well, I think that very few people just give for the tax break. You know, we have this strong tradition of philanthropic giving in America that goes back hundreds of years. People in America are really generous. People in America are -- they´re the most generous people in the world, as far as wanting to contribute to their communities and just help people, so those are the main reasons that people give. The charitable-giving incentive just allows people to give a little bit more. So we´re not talking about people, you know, deciding not to give to charity anymore because of the tax change. We just know that they´ll give a little bit less.
Traynham: Steve, in the few seconds that we have left, for the folks that are watching, how can they get involved? Let´s say I´m a small non-profit in Dayton, Ohio, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or perhaps I´m a large non-profit in L.A. Doesn´t matter. How can they and/or we get involved to engage lawmakers, to tell them that this is a very important thing that needs to be fixed?
Taylor: Right. I think the biggest challenge is that a lot of lawmakers aren´t aware of this problem. They were talking about trillion-dollar changes, and these are -- seems like a lot, but like single-digit, billion-dollar issues, huge issues for the community, so everybody should be letting their member of Congress, their U.S. Senators -- let them know about this problem and ask them to help fix it.
Traynham: Steve Taylor, Senior Vice President for policy at United Way Worldwide. Thank you very much for joining us.
Taylor: Thanks very much, Robert.
Traynham: And, of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham. ♫♫