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Other studies suggest that high-income donors’ commitment to charities and the issues they care about outweigh tax considerations. Only 32 percent of respondents to a Bank of America survey this year cited tax advantages as a prime motivator for giving. Half said they would maintain their current charitable giving if tax deductions for donations were eliminated. The survey polled 700 U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more.
Aggressive lobbying to preserve the deduction is relatively new terrain for national charities and their local affiliates, which usually advocate for children’s issues, animal welfare, the arts and other noncontroversial causes. It also potentially pits them against homebuilders, real estate agents and state and local governments, all eager to preserve federal deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes.
Some lobbyists say they would support a hard cap on itemized deductions with carve-outs for charitable donations. Their most immediate goal is persuading congressional leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers to consider any changes as part of a broader overhaul of the tax code next year, not as a rifle-shot solution to address deficit reduction.
“It’s become obvious in the last month that the lame duck presents significant risk,” United Way’s Taylor said.
“This is like a sleeping giant waking up,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, a leading coalition of nonprofits. “This is not a case of Chicken Little ... if they lose this deduction, it’s not coming back for a long time.”