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Effect of reduced charitable tax deduction is debated

Nonprofit leaders in the Oklahoma City area debate the effect of reducing the charitable tax deduction.
by Carla Hinton Published: December 15, 2012

Discussions in Washington about reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction have caused concern among some local clergy and faith-based nonprofit leaders.

However, many who head up churches and charitable agencies said changes to the charitable deduction will not likely deter most people who give out of a deep sense of faith and benevolence.

“When our folks give, for most of them it is not the force that is driving them,” the Rev. Walter Mullican, senior pastor of Portland Avenue Baptist Church, 1301 N Portland Ave., said of the tax deduction.

“The Bible speaks about us not giving by compulsion. It says God loves a cheerful giver.”

The charitable deduction, which dates to 1917, would cost the government about $250 billion over the next five years, and proposals for reform vary. Proposals to cap deductions may be part of any compromise between Democrats and Republicans. How big a factor that tax deduction is in the decision to give to charity generally is subject for debate.

Like Mullican, the Rev. Rick Stansberry, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, 8005 Dorset Drive in Nichols Hills, said many people give generously to their churches and faith-based charities as a way of living out their faith beliefs. But Stansberry said he thinks reducing the charitable deduction could still cause donors to give less.

“I think it's something that will hurt all churches and charities,” Stansberry said.

“You'd like to think that people give strictly out of a sense of benevolence and tithing but the tax deduction has been an extra bonus for them for their charity.”

Meanwhile, several faith-based agency leaders said they have been keeping tabs on the charitable tax deduction proposals being bandied about by some of the nation's elected leaders.

“We don't take political positions. We're watching it as closely as we possibly can, just hoping and praying that our overall funding is not impacted,” Rick Denny, executive director of the Jesus House, said. He said the homeless shelter relies on donations from individuals, churches and corporations anything that would affect those giving groups would affect his organization.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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