The Charitable Deduction: What Does “Tax Reform” Mean for the Arts?

Bronwyn Mauldin

From the article's opening statements:

"In America, the arts are highly dependent on donations from individuals for funding. Once a new president is in office in 2017, Congress is expected to take up 'tax reform' in a serious way. How might that affect the long-standing deduction for charitable contributions, and by extension, giving to the arts?

Americans made $17.5 billion in donations to nonprofit organizations in the arts, culture, and humanities in 2014, which constituted nearly 5 percent of all charitable giving. Overall, charitable donations have been on the rise in recent years and are finally above prerecession levels. Arts giving alone grew by more than 9 percent from 2013 (7.2 percent when adjusted for inflation).

Charitable giving in the United States totaled $358.4 billion dollars in 2014. Nearly three-quarters of that came from individuals ... . The arts receive nearly 60 percent of all donations from people earning between $200,000 to $1 million per year, more than from those in the highest income group ... .

While arts, culture, and humanities organizations are the fifth largest recipient of charitable donations, they are more reliant on private contributions as a share of total revenue than hospitals, educational institutions, or human service organizations. Any changes to tax laws that affect individual giving will have an impact on arts and culture. Exactly how? Estimating the answer lies somewhere between math and policy, and it requires a healthy dose of conjecture."