Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One of the many ways the rich stay rich

The Washington Post has discovered that Sen. Clinton failed to list her family charity and her position within that organization on her disclosure forms. Her staff asserts that this is an error. I can't think of any reason to have withheld this information this year after having reported it in previous years. Since the existence of their charity is not in doubt, I am willing to take her at her word.

What interests me is the Washington Post's reporting of the monies involved.

Assuming the numbers to be correct; that the Clintons were able to write off 5 million of their taxes due to their charitable donation of 1.5 million, something seems askew in the tax code. It must be more complicated than this, right?

My wife and I gave approximately 6% of our income in charitable donations last year- considerably less than those who tithe the standard 10%. Frankly, our giving is unrelated to any tax benefits that it might accrue. It is an afterthought- sort of a "oh yeah, we can write that off too."

It is "well known sonny Jim" (5 points to the person who can correctly identify the movie on the basis of this phrase alone and the Cranky Prof can't play) that the rich don't see charitable donations the same way as the rest of us.

There is undoubtedly a State interest in encouraging charitable giving and tax write-offs are an effective tool to further this policy objective. But, does the society lose the benefit of that charity by receiving less than was donated?

Take the Clinton's example (again, assuming that the Post has it right). It is clearly a benefit to society for 1.5 million to make its way into funds that provide for the alleviation of poverty, injustice, and misery. But, these are also legitimate roles of government and ones that consume significant tax dollars. If the larger society lost 3.5 million in the bargain, of what benefit is this to us?

I am not advocating for the end of the charitable gift write-off. Again, this is a smart way to further the public policy of encouraging charitable giving. However, if the Clinton example is merely one of many, then we may be robbing Peter to pay Paul and may be far poorer for the experience.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?