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Philanthropy 'Not Out of the Woods' on Tax Reform


Today SECF members in metro Atlanta had the opportunity to hear from one of the country’s leading experts on the tax reform debate in Washington and how it could affect endowments and grantmaking.

Sandra Swirski, with Urban Swirski & Associates, told attendees that there was still a clear path forward for tax reform legislation that could cause problems for endowed philanthropy. “We are so not out of the woods,” Swirski said.

Swirski’s presentation came at the first of a series of Federal Policy Luncheons, which aim to keep members informed on the political and policy landscape in Washington. Today’s event in Atlanta will be followed later this year by another luncheon in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 22.

Swirski said the failure of congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has caused President Donald Trump’s administration to exert more influence in the tax reform debate. Trump’s involvement, however, makes it more difficult to predict what impact tax reform could have on the sector – though Swirski was confident some type of legislation would move forward.

“Am I bullish on tax reform? You better believe it,” she said, noting that the math in the Senate – where 10 Democrats up for re-election in 2018 come from states won by Trump – made that the most likely source of legislation.

The difficulty facing supporters of tax reform, Swirski said, is how to craft legislation that is revenue-neutral while still lowering corporate tax rates. That goal has led policymakers to look at other pools of wealth. With university endowments already seen as one source of revenue, it’s not difficult to see foundation endowments also placed in the crosshairs.

“This issue is something that concerns me greatly,” Swirski said. “I’m worried they could pivot to other large pools of money, including community foundations, private foundations and family foundations.”

Even another proposed source of revenue, the controversial border-adjustability tax, could affect foundations, especially if they rely on foreign companies to manage assets housed abroad, Swirski said.

SECF members interested in learning more about the tax reform debate and how to become engaged with policymakers are encourage to join tomorrow’s ACR Roadmap for Action webinar, scheduled for 2:00pm.

SECF members also have other opportunities to learn more about the legal and political issues that affect their work. On Tuesday, May 16, SECF will host its latest “What’s Keeping You Up at Night?” legal webinar, with a focus on community foundations. On Tuesday, July 25, members will be able to join a webinar on how to connect with lawmakers during the August legislative recess. Stay tuned for details about both these events!

David Miller is SECF's director of marketing and communications.

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