News and analysis
August 30, 2012

GOP Platform Vows to Protect Charitable Deductions

Republicans meeting this week in Tampa, Fla., adopted a platform that vowed to protect tax incentives for donors, but they have otherwise offered few clues about how a Romney-Ryan White House would affect nonprofits.

The platform made no mention of what would happen to national-service programs, nor does it talk much about other programs that support charities directly except for touting the value of aid that foundations and charities provide overseas and calling for an overhaul of domestic antipoverty assistance.

Perhaps most important to nonprofits, which get nearly 40 percent of their total aid from government programs, is the party’s plan to close the federal deficit by making cuts in spending, but the platform and speakers said little to help charities and foundations figure out which programs are most at risk of large reductions.

Tax Breaks

The most explicit reference to nonprofits in the Republican platform came in a section about tax exemptions and deductions.

It said, “Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering benevolence and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation, and donations to them should continue to be tax deductible.”

Charities have been lobbying hard to protect write-offs for donors, in large part because President Obama has proposed five times limiting how much wealthy Americans can claim in deductions for donations and other items, such as mortgage interest.

The measure has never advanced, in part because of opposition from charities.

National Service

Social-service groups have been keeping a close eye on the presidential race, watching to see whether either candidate would talk about federal subsidies for the needy. The Republicans made clear they believe today’s programs have failed.

“Each year, this system dispenses nearly $1-trillion in taxpayer funds across a maze of approximately 80 programs that are neither coordinated nor effective in solving poverty and lifting up families,” the platform says.

Organizations that promote community service and volunteerism are also keeping a careful watch on the campaign, in particular because the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, included in his budget a plan to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that manages such programs as AmeriCorps, while Mitt Romney has supported the federal program.

The GOP’s 2012 platform makes no mention of national service. And so far no convention speakers have addressed the topic.

Global Aid

Republicans had high praise for charities and foundations that make grants overseas.

“Apart from the taxpayer dollars our government donates abroad, our foundations, educational institutions, faith-based groups, and committed men and women of charity devote billions of dollars and volunteer hours every year to help the poor and needy around the world,” the platform states.

Such private efforts in foreign aid are far better than corrupt and mismanaged government-to-government assistance, according to the platform.

“Limiting foreign-aid spending helps keep taxes lower, which frees more resources in the private and charitable sectors, whose giving tends to be more effective and efficient,” the platform states.

Send an e-mail to Doug Donovan.