Many worthy institutions in the United States, from universities and cancer research centers to soup kitchens, art galleries and public radio, are supported by donations from private citizens. One of the motivations for this charitable giving is that it typically reduces one’s tax bill. In essence, the government allows us to steer a certain amount of our taxable income away from the government and toward a good cause of our choosing.
The rich give much more than anyone else to these institutions. It just is not clear if they would give as much if there were no tax benefit. But millions of ordinary citizens also donate.
Americans donate about $300 billion a year to their favorite charitable causes. About 70% of that comes from individuals.
The provisions of the “fiscal cliff,” looming as of January 1, could well eliminate tax breaks for this giving as a way of raising revenue for the Federal government. But this step would only be necessary if the GOP continues to block any increases of taxes on the wealthy. (The Obama administration wants to cap the tax deduction, but if the GOP continues to obstruct tax rises for the rich, it could go away altogether.
Conservatives such as Bill O’Reilly at Fox Cable News have been pushing a phony complaint about a supposed ‘war on Christmas’ for years. Apparently they are upset that many companies, institutions and individuals say “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas, in order to be inclusive of Jewish Americans and the other non-Christian religions that make up 5% of the population, as well as of the 14% of Americans who say they have no religion
But will they be upset that the GOP was so opposed to the rich paying their fair share of the nation’s tax burden that they allowed the country to go over a fiscal cliff that may drastically reduce charitable giving.
Isn’t charitable giving in the spirit of Christmas? Indeed, without it isn’t Christmas no more than consumerism and selfishness?
Isn’t the end of the tax break for charitable donations the real war on Christmas?