Renegotiating the Charitable Deduction

11 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2012 Last revised: 7 Jan 2013

Date Written: October 28, 2012


The charitable contribution deduction is in peril, a potential casualty in the looming budget wars of 2013. All of the major tax reform proposals, from President Obama and Governor Romney to the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission, call for modifying, capping, or eliminating the charitable deduction to pay for tax cuts, spending or both.

With its passing, charitable organizations will lose an important source of financial support, but we as Americans stand to lose much more than that. The charitable deduction protects our freedom to create, fund, and operate the institutions that make up American civil society with minimal interference from the government. It is a negotiated bargain between citizens and the state, establishing a delicate balance of power.

Much as we might like to see balanced budgets and low tax rates in the short term, sacrificing the charitable deduction is not the best means of accomplishing these priorities. This paper argues that the appropriation of revenue by the federal government from the nonprofit sector by altering the charitable deduction entails a profound renegotiation of the relationship between the government and civil society, and it runs counter to the policy and spirit of American democracy.

Suggested Citation

Reid, Alexander, Renegotiating the Charitable Deduction (October 28, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Alexander Reid (Contact Author)

Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP ( email )

1111 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
United States
202-739-5941 (Phone)


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