Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff Deal: How Does It Affect Nonprofits?

Politicians and the members of the media have been talking about the "fiscal cliff" -- the combination of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts -- for so long, it almost seemed anti-climatic when the country tumbled off it yesterday.

Although the Senate had successfully passed -- 89-8 -- a bill that would have averted the cliff, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives declined to take up the bill, opting to consider it on New Year's Day instead. The bill was passed that evening, which closed the door on tax rates and delayed the spending cuts for another two months.

President Barack Obama campaigned on raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more and, though he wasn't able to get Congress to pass a bill with that threshold, taxes were raised on the wealthiest Americans (specifically, individuals earning $400,000 and couples earning $450,000). That is the main headline from the bill, but it also will have an effect on the nonprofit sector.

In an article on The NonProfit Times website, it was revealed that the legislation will cap deductions for wealthy itemizers. It also reduces the amount of itemized deductions by a fixed percentage for each dollar of income (AGI) above a specified amount (up to 80 percent of the total). In this case, it would be 3 percent above the threshold.

Does this mean the charitable deduction has been affected? Not yet, said Joseph Rosenberg, a research associate at the Urban–Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He told The NonProfit Times that since the cap is based on income, "it essentially operates as an income tax surtax, not a cap on itemized deductions (i.e., deductions retain the full marginal tax value for most taxpayers)."

That doesn't mean nonprofits are out of the woods yet. In a statement shortly after the bill was passed, President Obama expressed his desire to pursue further deficit reduction through a combination of spending cuts and increased revenue from tax reform, which could potentially place a cap on charitable deductions. The spending cuts could also impact organizations, depending on what government programs are targeted.

Stay tuned to the NPT website for more details on the fiscal cliff deal as they emerge.

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