No More Excuses: Pass the America Gives More Act

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The America Gives More Act (H.R. 644), which would restore several expired charitable giving incentives and make them permanent, quickly passed the House in February. But in the Senate the bill has been met by old excuses and inaction – despite widespread support on both sides of the aisle for the substance of how it would support the work of nonprofits in serving their communities.

Learn more about how the bill would permanently promote donating fresh food for the hungry, preserve land for the environment, and allow senior citizens to donate money from their IRAs without being taxed, plus streamline convoluted foundation taxes so more funds can support community work rather than pay accountants.

Interestingly, Democrats and Republicans are on record in support of the underlying merits of the America Gives More Act. Yet the bill remains held up due to posturing around these two arguments:

  • President Obama and some in Congress have asserted that bills should not be enacted unless the costs are offset with other spending cuts or tax hikes.
  • Prominent Senators have asserted that smaller tax provisions should not be passed in piecemeal fashion while a comprehensive tax reform package is being negotiated on a bipartisan basis.

At first glance, these arguments sound reasonable. Yet in the week before Congress adjourned for the Passover/Easter recess, politicians acted contrary to their own arguments, revealing that their assertions are not firm principled positions but just empty excuses for not helping nonprofits serve their communities.

First, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that prevents cuts in Medicare reimbursements for doctors, with 392 (of 435) Representatives voting for it – including many who have asserted that bills must be revenue neutral. Yet that so-called “doc fix” bill – which President Obama declared he would sign – only offsets a third of the $141 billion price tag, and the rest of the cost is added to the deficit. The President’s support for that bill, along with votes from those previously demanding that bills be paid for, now removes any hint of legitimacy to politicians’ assertions that the America Gives More Act should be blocked until fully offset.

Second, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said immediately before the congressional recess that corporate-only tax reform might go forward this year without waiting for an agreement on revisions to tax laws affecting individuals. Thus, with the Senate willing to move ahead on tax-law changes on a piecemeal basis, the “wait for comprehensive reform” excuse should no longer block immediate passage of the America Gives More Act.

Supporters of the America Gives More Act now have the opportunity to make the point that there is no legitimate reason to delay – yet again – passing the charitable giving incentives until the end of the year. For too long Congress has been undermining communities by allowing charitable giving incentives to expire on December 31 and then failing to renew them until late in the following fall, thus creating grave uncertainly and disincentives for charitable giving. Consequently, communities needlessly suffer. Fortunately, the nearly two-thirds of the Representatives who voted for the America Gives More Act in February, and a majority of the Senators who say they will support the bill if leaders will bring it up for a vote, finally recognize the harm that congressional inaction inflicts on the work of charities. Senate leaders need to bring the bill to the floor so the Senate can immediately pass the America Gives More Act.

So, now that the past excuses for inaction have been cast aside, what should nonprofits do?

  • Contact your Senators – and urge them to call on their leaders to immediately pass the America Gives More Act.
  • Express the urgency of making these provisions permanent. Has your nonprofit lost a contribution of food, land, or money because of the uncertainty caused by having to wait for a year-end retroactive extension of these provisions? Let your Senators know how that has hurt people in your community.
  • Tell your Senators why these provisions are critical to your community. Focus not on the donors or even on your own nonprofit, but on the people your nonprofit serves – how they are hurt by the Senate’s inaction.
  • Let your Senators know that the excuses used until now no longer apply. It’s time to stop hiding behind process and pass this bill. Our communities are counting on them.

Visit our page on the America Gives More Act for additional background and templates you can use to reach out to your Senators.

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