Policy in Focus | Fall 2018

Advancing the advocacy voice of Minnesota philanthropy to promote charitable giving and philanthropy, and to create prosperity through inclusion and equity.

By Bob Tracy

2020 Census
Three hundred grantmakers signed a letter opposing the Commerce Department’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This was one of 250,000 responses this past summer during the public comment period triggered by the Commerce Department’s controversial decision. A final decision about the citizenship question is expected through court action early in 2019. Ensuring adequate resources to ensure effective implementation of the decennial count continues to be the focus of advocacy targeting budget appropriations at both the federal and state levels. MCF supports a fully-inclusive, nonpartisan, and accurate 2020 Census count.

Johnson Amendment
Three times during the past year the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to repeal the Johnson Amendment, the federal law that prohibits tax exempt organizations from engaging in partisan elections. Each time these poison-pill riders got nixed by the Senate in conference committee. Repeal bills have been repeatedly introduced in Congress since 2005 and it’s expected they will keep coming. While advocates frame the debate as freedom of speech, at its core, the reason this keeps coming back is about the money and opening a new channel for dark money in American politics. MCF strongly opposes repeal of the Johnson Amendment.

Universal Charitable Deduction
The 2017 federal tax law doubled the standard deduction and effectively put the charitable giving tax deduction out of reach for all but about 5% of taxpayers. The change is estimated to result in an annual drop of about $13 billion, an effect expected to be realized in 2019 as taxpayers start filing under the new law. The loss will put a big hole in annual operating budgets that rely heavily on annual gifts from lower and medium income households. Nonprofit and philanthropy advocates are working to build Congressional support for a universal charitable deduction that plugs the hole created by the 2017 tax law and gives an added boost of about $4 billion annually in charitable giving. It’s not a new idea for Minnesotans; we’ve had a version of a non-itemizer charitable giving tax deduction since 1999. MCF is encouraging members of Minnesota’s
Congressional delegation to sign-on as co-authors of universal charitable giving deduction bills.

In-the-moment updates on these and all MCF public policy initiatives can be found on the Policy in Focus page at mcf.org. MCF’s monthly Policy in Focus e-newlsetter keeps you up-to-date. Visit your MCF member profile page to add your name to the Policy in Focus email distribution list. MCF’s board of directors approves all policy positions based on recommendations developed by MCF’s Government Relations and Public Policy Committee and its Tax Policy Subcommittee.

More of Giving Forum V40, Fall 2018