Washington Snapshot - May 16, 2014

Events IconJust Announced - Public Policy Preconference

We are thrilled to announce our inaugural Council on Foundations Public Policy Seminar on Saturday, June 7th, from 9:30 am-4:30 pm at the Washington Hilton in Dupont Circle. The seminar is a preconference to our 2014 Annual Conference: Philanthropy Exchange.

We’ve designed this seminar for our members and colleagues who work in policy and advocacy. This intensive one-day workshop will dive into the art of developing an effective strategy to address complex, multi-issue legislation. We will use Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 as our launching off point for the discussion.

Space for this event is limited. For more information or to express your interest in participating, please contact govt@cof.org.

Events IconNew Dates - "Tax Reform: Charting the Future of Philanthropy" Webinars

Thanks to all of our readers who have already registered for our upcoming tax reform webinar series! We are very much looking forward to engaging with you on Chairman Camp’s tax reform proposal and hearing the insights and opinions of our expert guests.

While the webinar series was originally scheduled for this month, we’ve pushed the dates into June and July so that we can incorporate important new research and bring you the most relevant and useful information.

The new webinar dates, descriptions, and registration links are as follows. We hope you will be able to participate!

Wednesday, June 25th 2:00-3:00 PM EST

PART I: Provisions on Donor Advised Funds and Supporting Organizations

This session will kick off with an update on current activity on Capitol Hill related to tax reform. Then we’ll turn to our expert guests to discuss the details of the proposed 5-year payout requirement for donor advised funds and the repeal of Type II and Type III supporting organizations. Participants will have plenty of opportunity to engage with the Council’s public policy team and our expert guest speakers and to ask us anything that’s on your mind about Chairman Camp’s bill or recent tax policy developments.


Wednesday, July 9th 2:00-3:00 PM EST

PART II: Provisions on Individual Giving Incentives

This session will recap what we’re hearing about the tax reform environment on the Hill. We’ll then delve into provisions in Chairman Camp’s bill related to the charitable contributions of individual taxpayers, including: a 2% (of AGI) floor on the charitable deduction; a phase-out of the deduction for higher income earners; the shift of the majority of itemizers to non-itemizers; the extension of the deadline for deductible donations to April 15th of the calendar year; and the latest intel on the IRA charitable rollover and the other charitable “tax extenders.”


If you’re attending our 2014 Annual Conference: Philanthropy Exchange, please join us at our Washington Update session on Monday, June 9th, and other public policy programs. Our policy experts are developing programing that will have little overlap, so that you get a breadth of information and a variety of expertise in your conference experience. We want each of the conference sessions to add to your understanding of the issues and increase your enthusiasm for getting involved.

Congress IconNews from the Hill

Senate Vote on Tax Extender Bill

The tax extenders bill that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee last month experienced a setback on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. It is now unlikely that this legislation will be back up for a vote until after the November midterm elections. Yet, in his statements on the Senate floor this week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) reiterated his conviction that the bill is “a bridge to tax reform.”

The bill, the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, would have extended the majority of the 55 original tax extenders for 2 years. Back in April, we walked you through the Senate Finance Committee’s consideration of the extenders, and were pleased to report that the IRA charitable rollover—along with the enhanced deductions for food inventory and conservation easements—made it into the bill.

As for today’s action, Senate Republicans were unhappy that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) did not permit them to offer amendments to the bill. Numerous Senate Republicans sought to use the EXPIRE Act as a means through which to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s controversial medical device tax. As a result, Senate Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation.

Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) came to the floor after the failed vote to make clear that he and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) will work together to find a way forward on the EXPIRE Act.

Schock Bill would Make IRA Charitable Rollover Permanent

Meanwhile, the House continues looking at individual tax extenders. Last week, we announced that Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) introduced H.R. 4619, a bill that would make the IRA charitable rollover permanent. The Council has been working closely with the sponsors of H.R. 4619, and welcomes this important step in a two-step process toward IRA charitable rollover permanence and expansion.

The first step, legislation to make the IRA charitable rollover permanent, is part of a House Ways and Means Committee effort to prioritize the 55 recently expired Internal Revenue Code provisions and extend only those that have the greatest policy merits. Chairman Camp contemplates including the IRA charitable rollover among the few provisions that he wants to permanently extend—and H.R. 4619 was introduced towards this specific purpose.

The second step is the continued effort, led in the House by Congressman Schock and Congressman Blumenauer, to advocate for broader reforms to the IRA charitable rollover. For instance, expanding the types of entities to which rollover contributions may be made, which was included in legislation introduced by retired Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA-2) in the last Congress, and by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in this Congress.

The Council will continue working with Congressmen Schock, Blumenauer, and other supporters of the IRA charitable rollover to further advance legislation relating to that provision.

News IconPhilanthropy News and Op-Eds

New Book from Urban Institute's Gene Steuerle

We frequently cite the research and commentary of Gene Steuerle, Richard B. Fisher chair and Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute and charitable sector economist. Gene’s latest work is a compelling new book. In Dead Men Rising: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue our Future, Steuerle argues that politicians from both parties have enacted policies throughout the years that effectively “impose their agendas on the future.”

Steuerle makes the case that significantly less revenue is free for today’s lawmakers to make choices about what federal programs to fund than was available to lawmakers in days past. This means that today, most of the money the federal government spends in any given year goes towards implementing existing policies created by lawmakers decades ago—namely mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The consequence of this decades of accumulated legislation is that current Members of Congress have very little flexibility to respond to problems or to make innovative policy decisions.

As a result, “lawmakers have deprived today’s generation and those to come the right to determine their own futures,” according to Steuerle. What is the solution to this gridlock? Steuerle suggests common sense budget process reforms, such as requiring Congress and the President to periodically renew entitlements and tax subsidies, and mandating a balanced federal budget.

For more information, check out the Tax Policy Center’s blog posting on the book!

Should We Criticize Philanthropy?

In an opinion piece this week, The Atlantic took a historical look at philanthropists and public opinion.

The author of “The Importance of Criticizing Philanthropy” argues that the public should question the motivations of high-profile philanthropists, particularly in this “ideologically driven, partisan” era. However, critics need to be clear about “whether it is the practice of philanthropy shaping public policy itself that they fear, or the particular policies in play,” the author states. In other words, those that critique philanthropists should either critique their particular choices of charitable gifts, or make the broader critique that individual philanthropists should not be influencing policy decisions.

The piece focuses on recent criticisms of philanthropist John Arnold and his pushback against these attacks. Arnold and his wife have been in the news in recent months for their generous donations to causes like education, pension reform, and criminal justice. Drawing a comparison to critiques of early philanthropists like John D. Rockefeller, the author asserts that “in the midst of this latest Gilded Age, as the prerogatives of concentrated wealth march onwards with little resistance, an aggressive—even at times an antagonistic—engagement between the public and their benefactors shouldn’t be considered a mark of incivility. It should be considered a democratic imperative.”