During this time of stalemates and divisiveness in Washington, D.C., wouldn’t it be refreshing to see both the U.S. House and Senate pass legislation that has bipartisan support, invests more in our communities, supports our citizens and advances our democracy?
“Fat chance,” many might say, especially during an election year, but realistically there is a significant opportunity right now to do just that. It is called the America Gives More Act (HR4719) which passed the U.S. House in July. The America Gives More Act is a package of charitable tax provisions which includes:
n Making the IRA charitable rollover, the expanded food bank contribution, and the conservation easement donation provisions permanent.
n Simplifying the private foundation excise tax to a single flat rate of 1 percent.
n Extending the deadline for charitable contributions to April 15 of the calendar year.
At this time in our country’s history with limited resources, it is so important to allow for individuals, nonprofits, and foundations to not be tied up in “red tape” preventing them from giving more and doing more good in our communities, state and nation. Now the America Gives More Act has moved on to the U.S. Senate and when the Senate reconvenes in September after their summer recess there are approximately 15 days available to take this to the Senate floor and for them to pass it.
This important legislation would help foundations and nonprofits to better provide meaningful resources for our communities and the citizens of West Virginia. With the majority of itemized charitable giving (68 percent) in West Virginia coming from the middle and low-income classes, this legislation is truly something that helps all citizens and foundations to invest more in local communities. Sadly, politics, not policy, are the reason this package has not already been enacted. The substance of America Gives More Act is sound and undisputed. Nonprofits and philanthropy are telling Congress to set aside their partisan bickering, solve this problem Congress has created, and do something for their communities before leaving town in September to focus solely on the mid-term elections.
In particular, West Virginia’s itemized charitable giving has not returned to the pre-2008-09 Great Recession levels. That limits the amount of resources available for community investment for our most basic human needs and for innovation that spurs new opportunities and prosperity for West Virginia. The America Gives More Act makes it possible for more people to give for local needs.
As the Independent Sector has reported, “For every dollar estimated to be lost in taxes for the government by these tax provisions for charitable giving, the return is three dollars back to the community.” When an individual donates $1,000 to charity, the government foregoes up to $350 in tax revenue, but communities benefit from the entire $1,000 gift. The government is unlikely to find another vehicle that leverages, at a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. Now more than ever these types of charitable investments can advance West Virginia’s growth and success for all citizens.
Philanthropy West Virginia and our members are thankful for the bi-partisan support this bill received by our state’s delegation in the U.S. House with Reps. Shelley Capito, David McKinley and Nick Rahall, who all voted in favor of it. Now, it is critical to have our U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin to support the legislation before the 15-day window is missed in September.
West Virginia is fortunate to have elected officials in Washington in both the Senate and House who get common sense and do the right thing for West Virginia. America Gives More Act is a common sense approach that will benefit both small and large communities in the Mountain State and country. In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” The right answer is support and passage of The America Gives More Act to benefit our citizens and state. Senators Rockefeller and Manchin’s support of this legislation will truly strengthen the nonprofit and philanthropic sector of our state that does so much good for so many.
Becky Ceperley is president and CEO of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and chairwoman of Philanthropy WV’s Public Policy Committee. Paul D. Daugherty is president and CEO of Philanthropy WV, philanthropywv.org.