Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Friends, I cannot believe that any federation leader, lay or professional, believes that Congress' version of "tax reform" will benefit those of our People most in need in any way -- just the opposite. With predictions that the law could reduce charitable giving by $13 billion per year, the impacts could well be catastrophic, the safety net unraveled. 

So I thought I would investigate what JFNA did during the negotiations that resulted in this legislation. And what I learned should make all of us proud. 

Examining JFNA Action Alerts, reports to JFNA's governance bodies, even FedWorld (!!), the effort became clear. And here's what emerged: JFNA's Washington Office was at work from the outset. Senior tax policy counsel Steven Woolf led the efforts on the tax bill, and in fact helped lead the efforts of the entire charitable sector through the Charitable Giving Coalition. (Visit the website at:

JFNA's major focus was to push for an “above the line” or “universal” deduction that would have allowed anyone who makes charitable contributions to have a deduction, regardless of whether they itemize (obviously more important because the bill will significantly reduce the number of itemizers). The JFNA and the Coalition succeeded in getting this position into the “Manager’s Amendment” in the Senate, but unfortunately it ended up not gaining sufficient support to get into the final Senate-passed bill. 

JFNA also worked to stop the repeal of the Johnson Amendment (which prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from endorsing political candidates), to save Private Activity Bonds (which were eliminated in the House-passed bill), to oppose the repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and more.

There were dozens of meetings with Members of Congress, Senators, and their staff. JFNA kept relevant federation professionals alerted, which resulted in dozens of more interactions with Congress; and also communicated positions on our behalf to the White House and Treasury Department even though the real action was in the House and Senate. JFNA and federation lay leaders were mobilized from Richard Sandler's working the Hill to federation leaders with strong contacts with individual Senators and Congresspersons working their contacts. This was a planful strategy even if that strategy ultimately did not succeed.

Articles in the press including one in the New York Times -- -- predicted up to $95 billion in decline in charitable deductions claimed, not actual giving. Estimates are of a $12-20 billion based on 5 percent of taxpayers itemizing (as distinct from the 35 percent who currently itemize). I'm told that the actual number of itemizers will probably end up being higher due to the $10,000 SALT level. But one estimate is that the loss will likely be 10 percent of taxpayers who end up itemizing, so the $12-20 billion loss is thought to be overstated. Even so, the loss will be devstating.

JFNA leaders and the members of the Coalition were clearly swimming against the tide on this one. They fought the great fight for all of us. The question remains whether only a battle was lost or the war itself; either way this is not over. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this encouraging update, but as you say the battle is not over. The real issue will now be what the Republicans decide to do with various safety net programs and what the response of JFNA will be in helping to maintain these vital programs as they try to reduce funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, and who knows what else.

Anonymous said...

Not knowing where else to post this....

Thank you, Richard, for voicing what so many of us think and feel. While no one agrees with anyone else 100% of the time, the themes and specifics of what you post (sadly) continue to resonate year after year.

As a Federation Exec, I look forward to reading your posts (and responses) every day (and am often disappointed when there is no posting or responses);
As a person who cares, I reflect on what you write and try to share it with leadership (within the bounds of appropriateness);
As a lifetime supporter, I continue to hope for better days and leadership that understands our fundamental responsibilities.

Wishing you a happy and health 2018

RWEX said...

Many thanks to you and to all of you who read this Blog.

Anonymous said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR and may 2018 be the year of the revolution - a revolt against everything that this blog has been exposing and warning about - the end of an awful failure and the beginning of a new future that our communities and people deserve.