It's time to get rid of the charitable deduction

According to data collected by the Giving USA Foundation, charitable donations over the last 25 years have remained solid as a rock, hovering between 1.7% and 1.95% of personal income year in and year out. If giving didn’t decrease when rates went from 70% to 35%, why would it go down by lowering the rate to 28%?…

Abuses of the charitable tax deduction are many and, at least to me, hard to forgive. Anyone who’s been in the fundraising business knows that when a prospective donor’s first question is about the tax deductibility of the gift, it’s time to grab your wallet and gird your loins. How pervasive is cheating? Even Congress’ usually understated Joint Committee on Taxation has observed, “Evidence from audits … establishes that many taxpayers overstate their actual charitable contributions.” That’s lawyer talk for “holy smokes.”

It’s impossible to put a precise number on the abuses, but when it comes to federal revenues, they are the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts — the phantom $20 bills in the offering plate, a deducted auction item here and a gala fundraising dinner there (it’s not legal to deduct a donation if you get goods or a dinner of equal value in return), a donated car that goes from clunker to Blue Book “good” overnight — it adds up to billions of dollars every year.