Washington Snapshot - June 27, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Baucus and Hatch Call for "Blank Slate" in Tax Reform

This morning, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) held a closed door meeting with the committee to ask for their support in tax reform.

A Dear Colleague letter from Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was delivered earlier today to members of the Senate. (Here is a press release about the letter.) The letter proposes to begin tax reform with a "blank slate." The chair and ranking member are opting to start the process by wiping off all deductions or credits. However, the letter also affirms that some tax expenditures should remain in the code while other unspecified tax expenditures should not be added back—and members of the Senate should weigh in with their recommendations

The letter requests that fellow senators—not the general public—"formally submit legislative language or detailed proposals for what tax expenditures meet these tests and should be included in a reformed tax code, as well as other provisions that should be added, repealed, or reformed as part of tax reform." Proposals must be submitted by July 26.

In anticipation of tax reform, the Council has worked consistently over the last several months, independently and as part of the Charitable Giving Coalition, to identify champions. Of course, we'll now work with these members through this newly announced process.  

We will continue to provide you with updates on this issue as events occur.

More on Tax Reform

As we reported last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced plans for the "Tax Reform Summer Road Show." Preliminary dates have now been set. The first stop will be Minneapolis on July 8 and Philadelphia on July 28. This will be a terrific opportunity for foundations in these locales to engage the two chairmen personally. The Council's Government Relations team is available to assist in developing strategies for getting into the mix at these meetings. Please contact Brian Horn if you are interested.

Last Thursday, Chairman Baucus headed to the Senate floor after the Democratic Caucus lunch. His speech highlighted the committee's bipartisan tax reform background meetings that concluded on June 20, and the launch of the TaxReform.gov website, which allows Americans to offer their input on tax reform.  With last week's speech, Chairman Baucus aims to maintain momentum. His speech outlined his upcoming road show where he and Chairman Camp intend to move the tax reform discussion out from the Washington Beltway and into American communities.

Charitable Deduction

Kudos to Javier Soto and David Biemesderfer for a  wonderfully written op-ed in Sunday's Miami Herald. This is a great example of using recent state and local data on giving to amplify the message that we need to protect the charitable deduction. Javier, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation, is the chairman of the Council's Public Policy Committee. David is president and CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network and an active Public Policy Committee member as well.

We would love to see more of this! If you notice a timely op-ed or local story that we could share as we visit leaders on the Hill, please let us know. Your personal voices are such a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the charitable deduction. As we see great examples like this, we will include them in Snapshot.

IRS Scrutiny

Capitol Hill attention on the IRS continued today with a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the agency's "30 Day Review" about the targeting of exempt organizations. Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel outlined a June 24 report indicating that both conservative and liberal organizations received scrutiny. That said, that scrutiny may not have been even-handed (see Treasury IG: Liberal groups weren't targeted by IRS like Tea Party, Prober gives more detail on IRS, progressives, and  Small Number of 'Progressive' Groups Faced IRS Scrutiny).

The examination of the IRS remains heated and from all sides, with little sign of a resolution on the horizon. Werfel explained that his investigation is ongoing and that he will continue to provide information to Congress as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing yesterday, former IRS Deputy Director of Acquisitions Gregory Roseman invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. This committee will vote tomorrow on whether Lois Lerner, the suspended IRS exempt organizations division director, waived her constitutional protection against self-incrimination when she appeared before them a few weeks ago. If she, in fact, did not, the committee may call her back to testify.

If you did not see Friday's Politico article, "5 Takeaways from the IRS Scandal," it offers an insightful big-picture analysis of the events since May 10.

Giving USA 2013

The Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy cohosted an in-depth panel discussion yesterday analyzing the data from Giving USA 2013. Patrick M. Rooney from Indiana University presented the findings of the report. He talked about the glass being "half-full,"—i.e., an encouraging 3.5 percent increase in charitable giving in 2012—and about the challenging road ahead before giving returns to prerecession levels.

To download a free copy of the highlights, or the full report, we encourage you to visit the Giving USA website. Audio and video recordings of yesterday's event will also be posted on the Hudson Institute's website.

Congressional Recess Next Week

Unless there is breaking news, Washington Snapshot will be on hiatus next week as Congress adjourns for the Fourth of July recess. You'll see Snapshot again on July 11. Have a great holiday.

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