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Arts Sector Harmed in Tax Bills
December 5, 2017 by Americans for the Arts

The Latest Tax Bill Action

Early Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate passed a tax reform bill along an almost exclusively party-line vote of 51-49 with all Republicans voting yes, except for Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who opposed it for the $1.5 trillion in debt that would be created.
 

In a rush to pass far-reaching tax reform before year-end, both the House and Senate have passed separate but similar tax bills. Unfortunately, both versions of the tax bill would have a very negative impact on charitable giving. The bill now moves into a joint conference committee to negotiate a final, unified bill that can be signed into law by the President. It is anticipated that the ability to include any new provisions at this point will be severely limited, if not impossible.

What is the Status on Charitable Giving?

Because both the House and Senate tax bills propose doubling the standard deduction, access to specific incentives for income tax deductions of gifts to charity become severely limited to only the top five percent of taxpayers who itemize their deductions. Americans for the Arts and the charitable sector had actively supported the idea of a Universal Charitable Deduction so that the incentive to give to charities would be available to both itemizers and non-itemizers. However, Universal Charitable Deduction proposals offered by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and James Lankford (R-OK) never made it into the final bill nor were given an opportunity for a floor vote.

Unfortunately, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that charities, including nonprofit arts organizations, could see a staggering loss of up to $20 billion annually as a result of this tax policy change. 

Data shows that the charitable deduction under both bills also will no longer be viable to 95% of all taxpayers because of the expansion of the standard deduction. That means:
  • 31 million taxpayers who currently claim the charitable deduction will lose it.
  • Charitable contributions will decline by up to $20 billion per year.

What Do the Bills Mean for the Arts?

We are still reading through the latest proposals. Although there are some differences between the two bills, both bills overall fail the arts and cultural sector. Here is a preliminary summary of some of the other provisions in addition to the expected reduction in charitable itemizers that we’ve identified impacting artists and the nonprofit sector.
 
U.S. House Bill U.S. Senate Bill
Eliminates the performing artists’ business deduction No such elimination
Eliminates the $250 deduction for teacher supplies and instructional materials Doubles the same provision to $500
Reduces estate and gift taxes by doubling the exemption and then ultimately fully repealing the estate tax (historically a generator of major charitable gifts) Reduces estate tax by doubling the exemption
Repeals the "Johnson Amendment" prohibition on tax-exempt organizations' support for political campaigns, without causing them to lose tax-exempt status No such elimination
Repeals lifetime education credits, tax deduction for interest on student loans, and tuition waivers from income for graduate and PhD students No such elimination
Increases limit on cash contributions to qualified charities from 50% to 60% of adjusted gross income. However, this only applies to the narrowed group of donors who can itemize their taxes. Same
Repeals income tax exemption for private activity bonds, often used to finance cultural infrastructure projects, like museums No such elimination
 
We will continue to keep you updated as the work continues. In the meantime, thank you for your support of the arts. Be assured that we continue to work to ensure that changes made under tax reform will encourage more giving by more Americans, and protect the civic infrastructure upon which our communities depend.

Thank you for helping to #ProtectGiving.
 
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