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Legislative + Advocacy

Legislative Update: How the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Might Affect your Nonprofit

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UPDATE:

On Dec. 2, the Senate passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (S.1). Now that each chamber has passed a version of the bill, it must go to a conference committee to work through differences and draft a single version of the bill that will be sent for another vote in both the House and Senate. If it passes those, then it will go to the President for signature.

On November 1, The House released H.R. 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with several representatives from the nonprofit sector voicing concerns that it would generate dramatic and negative consequences for America’s nonprofits and their constituents.

The Senate bill on tax reform was released November 9, and while many analysts in our sector feel the Senate’s version is not as potentially damaging as that of the House, there are still concerns that the bill does not fully address the components necessary to preserve charitable giving, as it limits the charitable deduction rather than expanding it to all taxpayers by way of a universal charitable deduction. Read The Independent Sector’s summary of the Senate’s tax reform  and its recommended call to action.

The Charitable Giving Coalition is urging all members of the Senate Finance Committee to vote yes on an amendment introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow and Ron Wyden that would allow an above-the-line deduction for charitable contributions. The maximum deduction would be limited to 60% of modified adjusted gross income and would phase out at higher income levels (by 3% for every dollar of taxable income above $266,700 for single taxpayers, $320,000 for married, and $293,550 for head of household.  View the Coalition’s full release here.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Charitable Giving Coalition are urging everyone to continue to reach out to the U.S. Senate regarding its tax reform bill and push Senators to support a universal charitable deduction.  Visit AFP’s website for talking points and sample messaging for communicating with your Senator.

Even though the Thanksgiving holiday is approaching, please reach out to your two U.S. Senators, and encourage your Board members to do so as well.  Your engagement in this critical issue matters.

Response from the Charitable Giving Coalition to H.R. 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

By | All Posts, Commentary, Current Events/News, Legislative + Advocacy, The Giving Institute | One Comment

Through its membership in The Giving Institute (our President + CEO Jeffrey Byrne served as Board Chair for two years) JB+A is a member of the Charitable Giving Coalition.  We will continue to carefully monitor the progress of this proposed legislation as it winds its way through the halls of Congress, and will continue to keep you updated. There’s obviously a lot at stake, and we need to stay abreast of these public policy issues.

 Consider sharing these updates with your senior executive team, your entire fundraising staff and your Board of Directors. Reach out to your Congressional Representatives and U. S. Senators to let them know of the positive impact the charitable deduction has on philanthropy and your organization.  Keeping elected officials informed on the positive impact of legislation within their districts is critical to persuading Congress to pass a permanent version of this proven charitable giving incentive. 

As the current Administration and Congress continue to propose various options for tax reform, we know these changes will affect charitable giving and the nonprofit sector. The latest tax reform framework was released last Wednesday, November 1, in H.R. 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. What are the potential consequences of this proposed legislation on America’s charitable organizations and those they serve?

The Charitable Giving Coalition (CGC), (a group of more than 175 diverse organizations representing private and community foundations, their grantees and independent charities, as well as nonprofit organizations and the associations and umbrella groups) is dedicated to preserving the charitable tax deduction – crucial to ensuring our nation’s charities receive the funds necessary to fulfill their essential philanthropic missions.

The CGC provides a unique and unified voice on Capitol Hill, and recently released a statement outlining its concerns that The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) will generate dramatic and negative consequences for America’s nonprofits and their constituents.

This proposed revision to the tax code doubles the standard deduction and shifts millions of taxpayers who currently itemize to taking the standard deduction. As many as 30 million taxpayers who itemized in 2016 would no longer have access to charitable giving incentive and would be taxed on their gifts.

While the CGC is grateful that H.R. 1 retains the charitable tax deduction for those who itemize, it articulates that “the result of this provision alone could be a staggering loss of up to $13.1 billion in contributions annually, undermining America’s charitable organizations and our country’s extraordinary tradition of philanthropy. The charitable deduction would be available to only 5% of all taxpayers – causing this significant drop in contributions. Up to 95% of taxpayers will be taxed on their gifts to charity.”

As an alternative to H.R. 1, the CGC offers a resolution it feels is fair and efficient and will continue to encourage Americans to donate to charities:  a universal charitable deduction available to all taxpayers. The CGC believes that continuing to incentivize the deduction for charitable giving would offset anticipated losses and potentially gain an additional $7billion annually for America’s charitable organizations while encouraging younger taxpayers to begin charitable giving earlier.

Read the full press release from the CGC here.

Click here to learn more about the CGC.

Tax Reform: What’s the Nonprofit Sector Saying?

By | Commentary, Current Events/News, Legislative + Advocacy, News You Can Use, Planned Giving | No Comments

Heather Ehlert, Vice President of Client Services

Whether seeking to end the federal estate tax or adopt a universal charitable deduction – both of which are being discussed by the current Administration and Congress – tax reform is tricky.  While it’s difficult to predict the exact impact these changes would have on charitable giving and nonprofits, we can reasonably conclude they would affect our sector. There’s a lot at stake with tax reform, and nonprofit professionals need to stay abreast of these public policy issues.

Our sector is fortunate to have a number of highly competent bodies monitoring situations like this and advocating in support of nonprofits. For example, Dr. Patrick Rooney, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a key participant in the research and writing of Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, wrote an article that was recently published on The Conversation.

In his piece, “How closing the door on the estate tax could reduce American giving,” Dr. Rooney illustrates how the estate tax is a significant revenue generator for the U.S. government and the charitable sector – specifically bequests, which accounted for 8% ($30.36 billion) of total giving in the United States in 2016 (according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016.) He provides an analysis of what could happen after a repeal of the “death tax” and notes the fiscal consequences to federal revenue (a reduction by nearly $270 billion within a decade, according to a bipartisan congressional committee) and the estimated ranges of decline in charitable giving (both bequest and non-bequest giving.)

The Congressional Business Office estimated a 6% decline in charitable giving if the estate tax was repealed.  But that analysis was way back in 2004, and a much different scenario exists today.  Other studies estimate a decline of between 12% and 37%, but Dr. Rooney feels these figures probably underestimate the actual effects of a repeal, and walks us through what actually happened in 2010 when the estate tax was temporarily paused to support his hypothesis.  He concludes that if the estate tax was eliminated, giving to charity would be negatively impacted – by reducing giving both during and after donors’ lifetimes. Be sure to check out Dr. Rooney’s full article on The Conversation.

As nonprofit professionals, philanthropic leaders and American citizens it is also our duty (and privilege) to interact with, educate and influence our representatives in government. There are many ways you can advocate for the philanthropic sector. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Jeffrey Byrne’s piece on Advocacy in Philanthropy from the JB+A archives.

Join Jeffrey D. Byrne for an expert panel discussion on how public policy and legislative issues are impacting philanthropy

By | All Posts, Current Events/News, Events, Giving USA, Legislative + Advocacy, The Giving Institute | No Comments

Over the last few years, the nonprofit sector has seen an increased level of interest on the part of elected officials, particularly on the federal level, in public policy and legislative issues impacting the sector. These issues range from the charitable tax deduction, to foundation and donor-advised fund “pay out” to PILOTs or other use taxes at the state or municipal level.

Join JB+A’s Jeffrey Byrne for a live webcast of an expert panel discussion on these issues that will affect our sector and how we can educate legislators on their impact.

July 14
10:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m. Central Time

Tax Policy and Other Changes in the Political Wind
hosted by The Giving Institute

Register now for this complimentary, live webcast

Panelists:
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D., President and CEO of Philanthropy Ohio
Jeffrey D. Byrne, Chair, The Giving Institute
Robert Collier, President & CEO, Michigan Council on Foundations
Sally Ehrenfried, Senior Manager, Philanthropy and Volunteer Engagement, Blackbaud

Moderator:
Jon Biedermann, Vice President, DonorPerfect

Be sure to read Jeffrey’s takeaways from Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016 for background on the state of fundraising in the U.S.

As members of The Giving Institute — Jeffrey D. Byrne is the 2015-2017 Chair of its Board of Directors — JB+A is pleased to share this special opportunity with you.

The Giving Institute, since 1935, has championed thought leadership on philanthropy and fundraising in the nonprofit sector. Through the Giving USA Foundation, The Giving Institute produces the Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy and other reports and partners with several groups to provide valuable research, data and thought leadership on topics and trends impacting charitable giving.

 

Creating Philanthropic Impact through Strong Nonprofits

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Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. was delighted to host Kim Meredith (left), Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, as our first speaker in the 2017 501(c) Success National Speaker Series. Kim joined us on Thursday, February 23, to share her insights on social innovation and the power of philanthropy to ignite ideas and solutions for the world’s most complex problems.

In her keynote address, Kim touched on current trends in philanthropy, the benefits of bridging nonprofits and corporations and the keys to good nonprofit governance. The overarching message in Kim’s keynote address is the importance of strategic planning, thinking and innovation in effective nonprofit governance. Nonprofits have enormous potential to be catalysts for social change, but impact depends on a willingness from leadership and Boards to focus on outcome-oriented philanthropy.

Kim touched on a number of trends that are shaping the way philanthropy implements social change. Some of these trends include:

  • Place-based philanthropy – an emerging focus on community and community foundations, investing funds within a strategic area and tracking growth.
  • Ethical/responsible data use – all nonprofits should be collecting and storing data on donors and funders, but many are asking what the parameters are for the ethical and safe use of this sensitive information. There are no regulations for accountability, transparency, privacy and security surrounding data collection and it’s something more nonprofits should be considering.
  • Generational Behavior – seasoned nonprofit professionals could learn something from the next generation. A common attribute among young people is their willingness to fail and learn from their mistakes. The end result is almost always growth, development and eventually, success. Is this something that we support in the nonprofit sector? Perhaps we should.
  • Collective Impact Initiatives – an intentional way of working together and sharing information for the purpose of solving a complex problem. Participants from nonprofits, grantmaking organizations, the business community and government share a vision of change and a commitment to solve a problem by coordinating their work and agreeing on shared goals.
  • Randomized Control Trials –  bring in a scientific lens on philanthropy and show that there is evidence and research behind these big ideas fueling social change.

Nonprofit Governance Falls Short

Kim also investigated the importance of strategic planning in good nonprofit governance. Prefacing her remarks with a side-by-side comparison on nonprofit and corporate differences, Kim drove home the value of running a nonprofit in the same way a CEO would a business – with a focus on growth and development. Growth will look different for every nonprofit, but the underlying theme is the same. If you want to make an impact, set goals and make a plan to achieve those goals.

Times are Changing for Nonprofit Leaders

Following Kim’s keynote presentation, she addressed a select group of nonprofit and community leaders on how to plan for the future of their organizations. We can assume that changes in government safety net appropriations are on the horizon and nonprofits should be prepared for those cutbacks when and if they come to pass. Now is the time to prepare a contingency plan that can anticipate and address these challenges. Kim urged senior leaders to consider the following when planning for the future:

  • Composition of your Board – consider diversifying your board with multiple women, people of color and millennials. This will help your Board think differently and usher the organization into the future.
  • Mergers and partnerships – are worth considering when the right organization presents itself at the right time.
  • Engaging Board members in strategic planning – take advantage of your Board’s expertise. You should have a handful of business leaders serving on your Board. Use their knowledge to your advantage. That’s what they are there for!
  • Diversified Funding – do not rely too heavily on one source of funding. Diversified sources of funding can help you weather the storm should another economic disaster or other external factor take a toll on your funding.
  • Next Generation – In 2012-2014, 70% of millennials donated to a nonprofit and 60% volunteered their time. Millennials want to share their skills with nonprofits, but organizations need to make it easy for them to get involved. Make a plan to attract millennials to your cause.

Kim’s insight showed the immense potential of nonprofits to implement change. All it takes is commitment from us, the nonprofit professionals, to change our perspective on what good governance means and how it is implemented.

What’s Next for the 501(c) Success Series?  

Our next 501(c) Success National Speaker Series program will feature  Dr. Patrick Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research. Dr. Rooney will present the always-anticipated Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy on Friday, June 16. Watch for more details from JB+A and Nonprofit Connect in the coming months.

Advocacy in the Philanthropic Sector: We Can. We Should.

By | All Posts, Commentary, Legislative + Advocacy, News You Can Use | No Comments

Jeffery ByrneJeffrey D. Byrne
President + CEO

Over a two-year (2015-2016) presidential fundraising cycle, candidates and political committees will raise an estimated $12-$15 billion. During that same time period, Americans will give an estimated $770 Billion to philanthropy!

With the 2016 election process heading into full swing, it reminds me how fortunate we are, as a nation, to enjoy the liberties we do — particularly in selecting and interacting with those who represent us in our government.

It also reminds me how vigilant we need to be about making sure our voices are heard. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and political writer, is credited with saying “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” I often say “You’re either at the table or on the menu.” Not as eloquent, perhaps, but it makes the point nonetheless.

With privilege comes responsibility. This holds particularly true for our philanthropic sector. Nonprofit organizations provide critical services to people across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. Yet over the last several years, our sector has come under increasing scrutiny with vocal and vehement calls for reform: ranging from added bureaucracy and oversight to threats to the charitable giving tax deduction.

So What to Do? Advocate.

Advocacy means speaking up. Making sure our government representatives understand the impact nonprofits have on people and communities is crucial. Advocacy also means awareness. Our philanthropic sector should always be in tune with how government – at every level – might affect it.

A surefire way to educate our elected officials is through grassroots activity: local citizens meeting with their local government officials on issues that impact their charitable organizations. Citizens are voting constituents – voices that are heard loud and clear.

It is important that nonprofit Boards of Directors and Staff have the knowledge necessary to take a proactive stance in educating their elected officials about their sector and their organization, and protect the interests of donors, fundraisers and charities related to laws and regulations about giving, volunteering and nonprofit operations. Elected officials need to know what matters to their constituents. If federal, state and local elected officials are not hearing from us on these important issues, then we risk them assuming their constituents are neutral on key issues impacting the nonprofit sector.

Parameters for Advocacy.

Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations can, and often should, lobby at all levels of government. The 1976 lobbying tax law passed by Congress was followed by the IRS implementing regulations. Taken together, the law and regulations provide wide latitude for 501(c)(3) nonprofits to lobby.

Organizations can advocate in support of a particular issue (such as preserving the charitable deduction)

  • Includes supporting or opposing a specific bill
  • Includes asking colleagues and the general public to support a position
  • Includes meeting with elected officials to share information about your organization and those it serves

But advocacy CANNOT be a substantial part of the organization’s activities.

  • Use the IRS test: a variety of factors such as time devoted (by both compensated and volunteer workers) and the expenditures devoted by the organization to the activity
  • Organizations can spend 20% of the first $500,000 of annual expenditures on lobbying ($100,000), 15% of the next $500,000, and so on, up to $1 million dollars.

Nor can organizations participate in or fiscally support political campaigns for candidates in any public office.

  • Organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
  • Organizations cannot give contributions to political campaign funds or make public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

Advocacy Is a Lot Like Fundraising
I think fundraisers were born to advocate. Simply act like it’s a donor meeting and do all of the preparation and follow through you would when cultivating and soliciting a donor.

  • Prepare thoroughly and do your homework. Familiarize yourself with your elected officials: their bios, backgrounds, roles on committees and voting records
  • Schedule a meeting with the appropriate elected official to introduce yourself, your nonprofit and the services you provide to your community (aka the elected official’s district). You can find your legislators’ names and contact information here.
  • If legislation is being developed or pending, make a clear request. Carefully frame the need for supporting or opposing the proposed legislation and how it could positively or negatively impact your nonprofit and people who rely on its services.
  • Establish a relationship with the elected official that allows you to serve as a resource on issues related to your mission and the philanthropic sector. Cultivate the relationship. This means making more than one contact. Consider inviting him/her to tour your organization and meet some of your staff, donors, volunteers and those you serve (aka the legislator’s constituents who vote). This also means having the facts and data you will need to support your case at your fingertips.

There are numerous advocacy resources available to help nonprofit Boards, staff and volunteers improve their organizations and better serve their communities. Here are just a few:

  • Independent Sector. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening and mobilizing the nonprofit and philanthropic community. A leadership network for nonprofits, foundations and corporations committed to advancing the common good, its nonpartisan coalition’s networks collectively represent tens of thousands of organizations and individuals locally, nationally and globally.
  • Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). AFP represents more than 30,000 members in more than 230 chapters around the world, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. AFP fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession.
  • National Council of Nonprofits. A network of State Associations and 25,000-plus members, this is the nation’s largest network of nonprofits, serving as a central coordinator and mobilizer to help nonprofits achieve greater collective impact in local communities across the country.
  • GovTrack.US. Tracks the United States Congress and helps Americans understand what is going on in their national legislature. GovTrack publishes the status of federal legislation and information about representatives and senators in Congress and can be used to track bills for updates or to get alerts.

Voices in the philanthropic sector – Board members, volunteers, staff and other professionals – have brought about some recent and very important advocacy victories – the permanency of three charitable giving incentives including the IRA charitable rollover and IRS withdrawal of its proposed rule on charitable gift substantiation. Advocacy works. But it’s up to all of us in the philanthropic sector to make it work.

Missouri Governor Appoints and Senate Unanimously Confirms Jeffrey Byrne to State Authority

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JDB MO Senate Chambers a

Jeffrey Byrne in the Missouri Senate Chambers

Jeffrey Byrne Continues Service to Nonprofit Health and Educational Institutions

Kansas City, MO (February 4, 2016) — Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO of Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc., has been appointed by Governor Jay Nixon to the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority (MoHEFA). Byrne will be joining the seven-member appointed Authority to assist health and educational facilities across Missouri in their financing efforts.

The Authority provides access to capital markets in an effort to lower the cost of health and educational services in Missouri by providing high-quality, readily available, low-cost financing alternatives for Missouri public and private, nonprofit health and educational institutions.

Comprised of experts in the fields of healthcare, higher education, investment banking and finance, the Authority advises and assists borrowing institutions in qualifying for, structuring and completing quality transactions, overseeing the financing process. In this role, this bipartisan Authority has succeeded in obtaining more than $23,600,000,000 in financing for 500 projects across the state since 1979.

In his role as a Member of the Authority, Byrne brings his expertise as a liaison between nonprofits, donors and the financial business sector. For more than 25 years, Byrne has worked with healthcare and educational institutions across the country on capital and development efforts.

Byrne also serves as Chair of The Giving Institute, whose member firms provide ethical delivery of counsel and related services to nonprofits through research, advocacy and best practices education. The Institute’s annual publication, Giving USA, is the most influential publication reporting on the sources and uses of longitudinal giving data in the United States.  Byrne is a graduate of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and serves on the political science alumni board.

The Governor has appointed Byrne for a term on the Authority ending July 30, 2019.

“This appointment is not only a great honor, but a great responsibility,” says Byrne. “It reaffirms my commitment to being a steward of nonprofit missions. My role with MoHEFA will help ensure nonprofits have access to a valuable financing resource to help them achieve their strategic goals and better serve individuals, families and communities while continuing to improve the health and educational landscape of our great state.”

For more information about The Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority visit http://www.mohefa.org.

Advocacy Victories – IRS Withdrawal of Controversial Donor-Data Proposal

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In September of 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had released a highly controversial proposed rule on charitable gift substantiation. Charities choosing to participate in filing a new information return (in addition to the 990) would have filed an additional form with the IRS that included taxpayer identification numbers or social security numbers for donors who contribute $250 or more. Charities also would have been required to provide each donor a copy of their individual information that was included on the form.  Hundreds of nonprofits and organizations joined together in expressing opposition to the proposed regulation and urging the Internal Revenue Service to withdraw the proposal.

While the regulation was designed to help the IRS verify the amount of charitable deductions claimed by taxpayers, nonprofits and other leaders in the philanthropic sector argued it would expose the public to increased risk from identity theft, impose significant costs and burdens on nonprofit organizations and create public confusion and disincentives for donors to support the work of nonprofits. After pushback from the charitable sector and a number of lawmakers who introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to block the regulation, the Internal Revenue Service withdrew the proposed rule on January 8, 2016.

Advocacy Victories – Permanency of Charitable Giving Incentives

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In late 2015, Capitol Hill made permanent three important tax incentives for charitable giving, including the IRA charitable rollover and enhanced deductions for the donation of food inventory and land conservation easements. After years of renewal and expiration, including the most recent expiration on January 1, 2015, this permanency ends the uncertainty caused by the repeated expiration and subsequent reinstatement of these charitable giving incentives.

The tax extenders package, known as the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, included 22 permanent tax breaks. Notably, it extends the special IRA rollover incentive for gifts completed in 2015 and future years, allowing people who are 70½ or older to donate up to $100,000 to a charity directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) without treating the distribution as taxable income.

These giving incentives make a difference. During the first two years the IRA charitable rollover was available, it spurred more than $140 million in gifts to nonprofit organizations. For years, a strong and vocal contingency from the charitable community urged lawmakers to permanently extend the IRA Rollover, stressing it makes a powerful impact in communities across the country and also benefits older Americans. Their voices were heard. Bottom line: the permanent enactment of these giving incentives will give charities improved access to much-needed resources.

President Signs Legislation Making Charitable Tax Provisions Permanent – Notably IRA Rollover

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Three tax incentives for charitable giving are now permanent. The tax extenders package, known as the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, includes a number of provisions, including the IRA charitable rollover and enhanced deductions for the donation of food inventory and land conservation easements.

The law extends the special IRA rollover incentive for gifts completed in 2015 and future years, allowing people who are 70½ or older to donate up to $100,000 to a charity directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) without treating the distribution as taxable income.

JB+A encourages nonprofits to reach out to donors who were waiting on the IRA Rollover provision and let them know the President has signed the bill into law.

Prepare a message to update all donors about the opportunity to make charitable gifts through IRA rollovers. Educate them about how the rollover provision is a powerful and unique way they can support charitable causes they care about.

We’ve provided sample language for messaging below:

Tax-free IRA Gifts

For those 70½ or older, it is once again possible to make tax-favored charitable gifts from IRA accounts.

The President recently signed into law legislation that retroactively extends the charitable IRA rollover for 2015 and makes this provision permanent for future years. A total of up to $100,000 can be transferred directly from IRAs to one or more qualified charities such as <Organization Name>, free from federal income tax each year. There may also be state income tax savings.

Amounts given in this way count toward required IRA minimum withdrawal amounts for the year of the gift. Check with your IRA administrator or your tax advisor for more information on how to make such gifts.

These incentives strengthen the charitable community’s ability to improve American lives and our communities, and nonprofit advocacy groups have pushed for years to make these incentives a permanent part of the tax code. This is a victory for fundraising and philanthropy.

JB+A will continue to monitor and alert you on other public policy issues affecting philanthropy going into 2016.

Happy Holidays!