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Reading Between the Lines: Transportation Benefits After Tax Reform

Tags: Tax Reform 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


Following the passage of the 2017 tax reform bill, nonprofits are re-evaluating how they determine their unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) tax, specifically in regard to transportation benefits. This week, we’ll dive into what the new transportation benefits provision could mean for your organization and your grantees, as well as what’s being done in Washington to help provide guidance.

Transportation Benefits Are Now Taxable

The 2017 tax reform bill made substantial changes to how transportation benefits are treated. Congress wanted all parking and transportation costs to be paid with after-tax dollars, which was fairly easy to apply to for-profit companies and their employees.  For nonprofits, however, Congress thought that by simply applying UBIT of 21 percent on any employer-provided transportation benefit would effectively push employers to stop offering the benefit, and employees would just pay for transportation with after tax dollars. 

Likely unforeseen was that this UBIT assessment will have a significant impact on charitable organizations’ bottom lines. This will increase the UBIT owed by many organizations and will lead many nonprofits to pay UBIT for the first time. 

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Reading Between the Lines: POTUS Leans in on Tax Reform

Tags: Tax Reform 


On Wednesday, President Trump kicked off his administration’s full-throated support for tax reform, seeming to position it as a silver bullet to shake off sluggish growth and kick the country’s economy into a higher gear. As has been the case for several months, policy details were scarce – and there was no mention of changes to the charitable or standard deductions.

While his speech wasn’t long on specifics, there were hints at what is to come if you listened closely. Reading (and listening) between the lines, we heard three new, notable developments about where tax reform is heading.

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Reading Between the Lines: POTUS Strikes Deal with Dems

Tags: Tax Reform 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


September was shaping up to be a busy month in Washington, with a to-do list including disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey, a bill to fund the government after September and raising the debt ceiling – all even before Hurricane Irma began bearing down on Florida. But it seems President Trump temporarily checked some of those items off Republicans’ list on Wednesday when he made a short-term deal with Democratic congressional leaders to take care of all of the above for three months.

Keeping this deal in mind, here are some ways the next few months could play out.

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Reading Between the Lines: A Final Push on Health Care

Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


You may have noticed recently that health care has become the centerpiece of conversations in Washington… again. Earlier this year, in July, the Senate tried and failed to pass a bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and most folks in Washington thought Republicans were done trying to gut the health care law. Then, last week, Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) revived the effort (pun intended).

This week, we’ll take a closer look at what this last-ditch effort on health care could mean for tax reform. Here are the headlines.

Details Will Come Later

Following clear frustration from rank-and-file Republicans in the House, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) told members they would receive more details of the Republican tax reform plan the last week of September. The Senate Finance Committee also scheduled two hearings on tax reform over the past two weeks for its members – but that was before the health care revival, and tax reform’s oxygen has been sucked away once more, this time by the Graham-Cassidy bill.

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Reading Between the Lines: The GOP Tax Reform Plan

Tags: Tax Reform 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


As you may have seen, on Wednesday the White House, House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee released a new tax reform document that is intended to serve as the template for tax writers when drafting tax reform legislation. The short version? There wasn’t a lot of new information. But it was what wasn’t said that was truly revealing – and disappointing. This week, we’ll read between the lines of the framework to shed some light on what it might mean for the charitable sector.

Notable Inclusions

  • Increased standard deduction of $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and $12,000 for single filers;

  • Three tax brackets (12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent) with the option for lawmakers to add a fourth for the highest income earners;

  • Elimination of most itemized deductions, but retains tax incentives for charitable giving and home ownership; and

  • Repeal of the estate tax and generation-skipping transfer tax.

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Reading Between the Lines: Budgets, Taxes & Charitable Giving

Tags: Tax Reform 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


The timeline for tax reform has accelerated in the past couple weeks, and House lawmakers are now talking about passing a tax reform bill in their chamber before Thanksgiving. This week, we’ll dive into that timeline and how expanding the charitable sector could come up in the tax reform debate.

Tax Reform Timing

Today, the House passed the Senate budget resolution that paves the runway for tax reform with budget reconciliation instructions. This fast-track option saves about two legislative weeks of the very few lawmakers have left in 2017.

The expectation now is that House Republicans will release legislative text next Wednesday, November 1, to then be marked up by the Ways and Means Committee the week of November 6. After the legislation passes out of the Ways and Means Committee, House GOP leaders expect to hold a floor vote the week of November 13 before members leave for Thanksgiving break.

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Policy Alert: Tax Reform Is Happening – Tell Lawmakers to Protect Philanthropy!

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This week the U.S. House is slated to unveil tax reform legislation that could have serious consequences for endowed philanthropy. Members of Congress need to hear from grantmakers like you to ensure that, as this bill moves through the legislative process, the ability of foundations to improve lives and support communities is not diminished. 

SECF is urging lawmakers to consider the importance of philanthropy, charitable giving and grantmakers’ missions to strengthen nonprofits and other tax-exempt institutions. To ensure that Southern Philanthropy speaks with one, united voice, this week the SECF Executive Committee approved four policy priorities for tax reform

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Reading Between the Lines: “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017”

Tags: Tax Reform 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


Just today, the House Ways and Means Committee released their tax reform legislation, dubbed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Republican tax writers have been working for years on a tax overhaul, and it seems this year is their best chance to get something passed. In light of the recently concluded World Series, this week we’ll provide a Win-Loss assessment of key SECF priorities included in the bill, as well as highlight other provisions that the nonprofit sector has been watching.

Universal Charitable Deduction

Several tax reform proposals floated over the past couple years included a significant increase to the standard deduction. However, that would result in fewer taxpayers itemizing and, therefore, fewer would be eligible to take the charitable deduction. In response to that problem, many have been advocating for a charitable deduction to be available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they itemize.

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Reading Between the Lines: More Tax Changes in 2018

Tags: Tax Reform 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


Republican lawmakers notched a much-needed win at the end of 2017 – a tax overhaul that had been in the works for many years. There was a quick feeling of relief among Republican lawmakers – who had failed to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and still wanted a victory for President Trump’s first year in office – followed by a lot of speculation about the tax bill being rife with loopholes, omissions and mistakes.

Given this, we expect the 2018 legislative agenda to include a tax bill which will pull from three buckets of items.   

Bucket 1: Cleanup and Corrections 

The tax overhaul bill is 503 pages long, which means there was plenty of room for errors. That’s what technical corrections are for – they make tweaks to the bill to bring it in line with the intent of Congress. However, it’s a politically heavy lift considering the Senate will need the support of Democrats, who were notably missing from the tax reform negotiations, to get the tweaks over the finish line. 

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Giving USA Shows Mixed Findings for Charitable Giving in 2018

Author: Stephen Sherman


The latest estimates on charitable giving from Giving USA show that individuals, foundations and corporations gave more than $427 billion to U.S. nonprofits in 2018. Giving by individuals accounted for 68 percent of the total ($292 billion), giving by foundations came in at 18 percent ($76 billion), corporations gave around 5 percent ($20 billion), and gifts by bequest made up about 9 percent ($40 billion). 

Depending on how overall giving is calculated, 2018 saw either a slight increase (0.7 percent) from the prior year when measured in current dollars or a small decline (-1.7 percent) if adjusted for inflation. This ambiguity reflects the complex factors affecting charitable giving last year, not the least of which were the tax changes taking effect as a result of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late 2017. 

Growth in total giving essentially remained flat as increases in giving by foundations and corporations made up for the decline in individual contributions. Giving by foundations was at an all-time high, totaling $75.9 billion and accounting for its largest share of overall giving to date. This was a 7.3 percent increase over foundation giving in 2017, or a 4.7 percent increase when adjusted for inflation. Giving by individuals, on the other hand, fell by 3.4 percent when adjusted for inflation. The share of overall giving from individuals fell to 68.3 percent, down from around 70 percent in 2017. 

This decline follows a longer-term trend in which the share of giving from individuals has fallen from around 83 percent in the late 1970s. The dip in individual giving could also be attributed to more recent developments, however. 

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Visiting SECF:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

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Phone: (404) 524-0911
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Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.