Serving Nonprofits. Strengthening West Virginia.

Advocacy & Policy

The West Virginia Nonprofit Association works to advance the nonprofit sector in the public’s eye, building awareness and public support for the importance and work of nonprofits and bringing a voice to the policy arena.

1/12/18, New Resources on Tax Reform

12/20/17, Tax Reform Update from the National Council of Nonprofits

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: What’s In the Tax Bill

The 503-page tax bill provides significant, permanent tax cuts for corporations and other businesses, and temporarily lowers taxes and repeals many deductions for most individuals, all at a cost of at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Numerous popular provisions expire after 2025, making their renewal likely, and thus deepening the federal deficit even more. The legislation generates more than $300 billion in revenue by effectively repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which will cause 13 million Americans to lose insurance and hike health insurance premiums for many. The tax bill coming before Congress this week does not include language repealing or weakening the Johnson Amendment (see article, below). The following summarizes the provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that relate most directly to the sustainability and work of charitable nonprofits.

  • Charitable Giving: The bill would increase the standard deduction for individuals (to $12,000), couples (to $24,000), and heads of households (to $18,000), resulting in a decline in the number of those who itemize from 30% of taxpayers to less than 10% of taxpayers. Experts estimate the change will shrink giving to the work of charitable nonprofits by $13 billion or more each year, costing 220,000 to 264,000 nonprofit jobs. Charitable and philanthropic organizations did not oppose doubling the standard deductions, but instead offered a solution to avoid the devastating consequences. To hold the work of charitable nonprofits harmless under the proposed changes, they proposed including a universal charitable deduction to create a giving incentive for all taxpayers. Those efforts were not successful. The increase in the standard deduction would expire after 2025.
  • Estate Tax: The measure would maintain the estate tax, but double the exemption to about $11 million for individuals and about $22 million for couples, effective through 2025. In addition to reducing federal revenues by nearly $100 billion over ten years, the estate tax is an important source of revenue for the work of charitable nonprofits and creation of foundations as it encourages donors to address future needs in their communities through estate planning.
  • State and Local Taxes (SALT): The legislation seeks to cap at $10,000 the deductibility of state and local income taxes and property taxes, in the aggregate. Many nonprofits are concerned that the provision will pressure state and local governments to enact tax and spending cuts, leading to elimination of programs serving people in need and increasing burdens on charitable nonprofits and foundations to fill the gaps.
  • Taxing Tax-Exempts: To pay for other federal tax cuts, the bill would create a new 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income of nonprofit colleges and universities with assets of at least $500,000 per full-time student and more than 500 full-time students. This provision should be of concern to all charitable nonprofits because it represents an invasion of nonprofit independence, replacing the political will of elected officials with the fiduciary judgment of nonprofit board members. The bill would also increase unrelated business income taxes (UBIT) by requiring that nonprofits calculate their taxes on each trade or business separately, and not aggregate profits and losses of all entities, as under current law. As a result, a deduction from one trade or business for a taxable year may not be used to offset income from a different unrelated trade or business for the same taxable year. Further, the legislation would levy a new 21 percent excise tax on nonprofits that pay compensation of $1 million or more to any of their five highest-paid employees.
  • Ticking Fiscal Time Bomb: In order to limit the apparent cost of the bill and make the math add up to no more than $1.5 trillion in cuts, the bill drafters made numerous compromises and employed budget gimmicks that will undoubtedly raise the costs by many hundreds of billion dollars in the coming years. Prime among these is setting the tax cuts for individuals to expire after 2025, a year after the next presidential election. In 2026, Congress will be seen as either raising taxes (if it does nothing), or continuing the tax cuts at great cost to the deficit, which will force either spending cuts, or once again target certain subsectors by raising their taxes. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act violates the barrier of taxing tax-exempt organizations to expand tax cuts for more favored interests (see above), there is every reason to be concerned that the fiscal crises created by the expiration of the individual tax cuts will include attacks on America’s nonprofit institutions.

Many issues raised during the tax reform process were left on the cutting room floor. As discussed below, the legislation does not weaken the Johnson Amendment, despite aggressive support from an extremely well-funded minority. The final bill does not include numerous troubling provisions that had been passed in the House version, including repeal of private activity bonds, raising taxes on private foundations in the name of tax simplification, increasing reporting requirements for donor advised funds, and a measure to deny operating foundation status to some art museums. The final bill ultimately makes no changes to the volunteer mileage rate or the law on intermediate sanctions, although significant, harmful reforms were included in an earlier Senate draft that may be seen again in the future.

One Bright Spot: Nonprofit Nonpartisanship Preserved

The final version of the tax bill does not include language to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment, the longstanding tax-law protection that prevents candidates for public office and their donors from hounding charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, or foundations for endorsements and other political campaign engagement. But this is not for lack of trying. The Senate Parliamentarian scratched the House provision from the tax bill because the measure violated the “Byrd Rule,” a budget rule that prevents the majority from slipping in policy changes on filibuster-free reconciliation legislation reserved only for revenue, spending, and deficit reduction provisions. One Senator personally argued with the Parliamentarian and sought to modify the provision at the last minute to get around the protection of the Byrd Rule, but to no avail.

The House-passed version of the tax bill would have politicized the 501(c)(3) community by allowing charitable, religious, and philanthropic organizations to engage in partisan electioneering for or against candidates if such action is “in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose,” and it incurs no more than “de minimis” incremental expenses in doing so. The result of the proposal, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, would be the diversion of billions of non-deductible dollars from political organizations, like candidate and party campaign committees, to newly politicized churches and charitable entities because donors would for the first time be able to take charitable tax deductions.

The very well-funded advocacy groups seeking to politicize charitable nonprofits are promising to continue their fight to repeal the Johnson Amendment. They and their supporters in Congress continue to ignore the more than 5,600 organizations nationwide, along with thousands of religious leaders, faith organizations, law enforcement, and the vast majority of the general public who oppose weakening the Johnson Amendment. Charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations must keep up their vocal opposition to any change to nonprofit nonpartisanship.

The Work Ahead for Charitable Nonprofits: Lift Our Collective Voices to Kill the Bill

As noted above, the National Council of Nonprofits urges every person committed to the mission of a charitable nonprofit or foundation to make Congress know the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a disaster for the people we serve and for the ability of organizations dedicated to the public good to address community needs. Go to Take Action Now for ways you can call, mobilize others, and tweet in opposition to the tax bill.

To see previous updates and/or background information on these issues, click on the links below:

Everyday Advocacy

By on December 22, 2014 in Advocacy & Policy
Everyday Advocacy

Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN   Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV At the Highland companies in Charleston, we advocate for patients every day. Our advocacy efforts are with families, with payers, with state agencies, and with organizations who can provide continued services to our patients in the community. Regardless of […]

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2014 Policy Institute

By on November 19, 2014 in Advocacy & Policy
2014 Policy Institute

Who? Board members, CEOs, staff and volunteers of West Virginia’s Foundations and Nonprofits. What? Join us for the Inaugural Policy Institute for those who are new to experts in the public policy/government relations arena for a five hour program to prepare for the 2015 West Virginia Legislative Session Why? It is critical to your organization’s […]

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ACTION ALERT: America Gives More Act (HR 4719)

By on August 15, 2014 in Advocacy & Policy
ACTION ALERT: America Gives More Act (HR 4719)

Call to Action THANK YOU to everyone who advocated for passage of the America Gives More Act (HR 4719) in the U.S. House earlier in July.  Now our work moves on to getting the legislation onto the U.S. Senate Floor and advocating for our U.S. Senators Rockefeller and Manchin to vote for passage of the legislation. […]

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Forthcoming Government Contract Reforms: What you should know

By on August 11, 2014 in Advocacy & Policy
Forthcoming Government Contract Reforms: What you should know

The Problem Governments and nonprofit organizations partner to provide needed services in communities across the country. Contracts and grants are the mechanisms governments use to fund these partnerships. These grants and contracts can be direct federal grants or indirectly through grants and contracts with state and local governments as well as other pass-through entities for […]

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Take the Survey: Government Contract Reform

By on August 11, 2014 in Advocacy & Policy

Take the Survey, Share the Survey In less than five months, new reforms governing payments to nonprofits for their indirect (overhead) and other costs will go into effect. Learn what the reforms do and why they matter to West Virginia nonprofits. You can help in the development of tools to turn the promise of the new […]

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