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Obama Budget Proposal Calls for Changing Charitable Deduction Details

Last week we discussed the release of President Obama’s proposed budget. For estate planning purposes, one of the most obvious red flags in that proposal was a call for yet another edit to the federal estate tax. The President wants to raise the tax rate and lower the exemption level again, altering what was some thought was a more permanent fix agreed upon in the law passed in January.

But the estate tax is not the only aspect of the budget proposal which might affect long-term planning for New York residents. For example, the President is also calling for changes to how charitable contributions implicate tax matters. The possible change is being suggested in an attempt to increase tax revenues to plug budget holes.

The Future of Charitable Deductions
As discussed in a Forbes story, the proposal calls for a reduction in the value of charitable tax deductions. This is an idea that is not new, as the Administration has been calling for it for several years. The change would reduce from 35% to 28% the amount of any charitable deduction that can be taken for tax purposes.

Critics of the idea have been quick to pounce, one noted: “The White House proposal would raise the cost of giving to charity from 60 cents per dollar to 72 cents per dollar. That’s a 20 percent increase in what can be called the ‘charity tax.'” Some point to studies which indicate that anywhere from $2-$9 billion in fewer charitable contributions will be made each year as a result in the tax deduction shift.

Opponents of this shift also contend that the charitable tax deduction is unlike similar tools which may rightly affect only the affluent. For example, deductions can be taken for home interest mortgage payments. That deduction obviously benefits those with expensive homes more than those with smaller homes. In the same way, the charitable deduction benefits those capable of donating the largest sums more than those who are only able to give a little. But, there is a big difference between using taxes to incentivize the purchase of a large home versus using it to incentivize charitable giving.

As with the estate tax proposal, it is important to remember that many ideas in these budgets are merely opening salvos in negotiations–nothing is certain. But it is important for New York residents to be aware of this possibility and talk with an estate planning lawyer and financial advisers to see if it alters the feasibility of any long-term plan.

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