America Gives More Act of 2015: A Post-Foundations on the Hill Update

America Gives More Act of 2015: A Post-Foundations on the Hill Update


by Ann Saxton, Vice President

Last week, a large contingent of Philanthropy Northwest members, a few staff and I joined almost 200 other foundation and association leaders from across the philanthropic spectrum to take part in Foundations on the Hill in Washington, D.C. Over a few days we met with numerous members of Congress, White House officials and other government agency staff to share the transformational work of philanthropy in our communities.

Jennifer Teunon, Medina Foundation; Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-7); Ann Saxton, Philanthropy Northwest

In addition to highlighting the positive impact of philanthropic organizations in our communities and beyond, together we raised awareness about the significant influence tax policy has on our work and expressed our support for the America Gives More Act of 2015. The bill, which would restore and make permanent three expired charitable giving incentives and streamline the foundation excise tax, was passed by the House of Representatives on February 12, but still requires Senate approval. Democrats have been mostly unsupportive of this legislation, arguing that because it is not paid for with offsetting tax hikes or spending cuts, it would add to the deficit, and that tax provisions should not be considered in a piecemeal fashion but as part of the negotiations that produce comprehensive tax reform. This messaging was consistent in most of our meetings, during which we heard that our members of Congress valued our work and supported the principles of the bill – which is not a tax loophole, but is a mechanism that allows us to enhance our ability to serve others – but that the way the bill was proposed made it politically difficult for them to support.

Invitation to Submit Your Tax Reform Comments

The subject is not closed, however, as Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently announced a bipartisan effort to solicit feedback on how best to overhaul the tax code to make it simpler, fairer and more efficient. The Finance Committee’s bipartisan tax working groups are analyzing existing tax law and examining policy trade-offs and reform options.

“By opening up our bipartisan working groups to public input, we hope to gain a greater understanding of how tax policy affects individuals, businesses, and civic groups across our nation,” Hatch and Wyden said. “In doing so, we will also equip our working groups with valuable input, and we hope these suggestions will help guide the groups through the arduous task of putting forth substantive ideas to reform the tax code in each of their areas.”

The two committees whose work impacts the philanthropic sector are the Individual Income Tax Committee (includes charitable giving tax including itemized tax deductions, IRA rollover) and the Business Income Tax Committee (includes donor-advised funds and private foundation excise tax). We encourage individuals, businesses, organizations and advocacy groups interested in submitting comments to send an email to the group or groups that relates to their area of interest. The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2015. Please send your submissions in compliance with the Finance Committee’s requirements to each group if an interest area covers more than one group.

Each bipartisan working group is currently working to produce findings on current tax policy and legislative recommendations within its area, with the goal of having recommendations completed by the end of May. The working groups will then deliver their recommendations Senators Hatch and Wyden, who will consider them as they develop bipartisan tax reform legislation.