Council on Foundations President Defends Federal Charitable Deduction

The president and CEO of the CFO’s national professional association – the Council on Foundations – had these good words to say about why it’s important to maintain the charitable deduction as part of our federal tax code. Her letter, below, appeared in the Opinion section of Thursday’s New York Times.

Vikki Spruill

Vikki Spruill

To the Editor:

Prof. Ray D. Madoff (“How the Government Gives,” Op-Ed, Dec. 6) characterizes many charitable deductions as “wasteful.” Yet for people in communities across the country who rely on nonprofit services every day, the charitable deduction is a lifeline. Charitable and philanthropic organizations employ millions, provide a variety of valuable services that might otherwise not be offered, and contribute to economic growth.

Professor Madoff offers the vexing criticism that some nonprofits are more “charitable” than others. The idea that policy makers might rank organizations’ charitable value raises many complex questions. For example, how would policy makers or tax regulators determine who would deserve the benefit of the deduction or which organizations’ purposes were “charitable”?

Our charitable sector thrives because donors get to choose to donate their money to diverse causes. Some choose children’s health. Others choose support for military families. Still others choose community theater groups. Philanthropy should remain an independent investment — free of politics or favoritism.

Professor Madoff also criticizes donor-advised funds, saying they “don’t do any charitable work themselves.” This view is shortsighted. These funds enable donors to make sustained, strategic investments in their communities.

Now more than ever, we must encourage — not place harmful restrictions or make arbitrary value judgments on — charitable giving.

President and Chief Executive
The Council on Foundations
Arlington, Va., Dec. 12, 2013