Catholic University law school Professor Roger Colinvaux testified before Congress on Feb. 14 as lawmakers considered substantial changes to the nearly 100 year-old system of deductions for charitable contributions.
The Obama Administration has proposed capping or limiting the use of such deductions, which tend to benefit higher-income taxpayers who are more likely to file itemized returns.
In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, Colinvaux did not support or oppose a specific proposal, but indicated to lawmakers the need to impose changes to the tax code that are sensible and serve larger, coherent policy goals.
“The charitable deduction has been modified substantially since its inception. Remarkably, because of the many changes, the simple idea of tax-favored giving has now become one of the most complex provisions of a notoriously complex tax code,” Colinvaux said.
“The changes to the deduction have largely been piecemeal, reactive to abuses, and generally have not directly reflected one or another rationale. What remains is a confusing mix of policies and priorities.”
Colinvaux was a former staff member of Congress when he served as Legislation Counsel with the Joint Committee on Taxation. He reminded committee members of the significant difference between cash and noncash gifts in charitable giving.
“Many of the costs associated with present law relate to supporting the deduction for noncash property, which provides uncertain benefits,” he said.
Widely quoted in the media, Colinvaux is an expert on tax matters relating to nonprofit organizations, including requirements for tax-exempt status, the deductibility of charitable contributions, political activities of exempt organizations, tax shelters involving nonprofits, and private foundations, among others.