What will happen to large donations and bequests if the estate tax is repealed?

Written by: Kristina ("Yna") C. Moore

Date: November 08, 2017

Editor’s note: Since the publication of this post, Jefferson Smith resigned from his appointment as director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, reportedly as a result of criticism of the hire due to a citation against Smith for physically assaulting a woman in 1993.

Philanthropy doesn’t generally get a ton of coverage on radio or television. Unfortunately, even when you combine the very sexy topic of tax policy with philanthropy, the results aren’t much better.

But yesterday, NCRP’s chief executive, Aaron Dorfman, had the opportunity to discuss a key tax issue that will have a lasting impact on the country’s charitable sector on XRAY In The Morning, a radio show in Portland, Oregon, hosted by Jefferson Smith. Smith is a former Oregon state legislator, founder of a terrific nonprofit focused on youth civic engagement, The Bus Project, and soon to take over as director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Aaron spoke with Smith about the potentially horrendous impact on large donations and bequests from very wealthy donors if Congress repeals the estate tax:

“The estate tax is one of the largest motivators for charitable giving that we have. Extremely wealthy families know they can’t pass everything along to their heirs tax free and so they look for other ways to reduce the value of their estates that also advances the things they care about in the world.” 

How do communities across the country benefit from the estate tax?

Listen to the 15-minute interview here (Aaron’s segment starts at 1:06:55) and check out specific examples from 22 states, which lists top recipients of gifts $1 million or more gifts to colleges and universities, hospitals, community foundations and others.

The House bill released last week calls for full repeal of the estate tax, with an immediate doubling of the exemption and then full repeal in 2024. However, there’s a very good chance of keeping the repeal out of the Senate bill that is expected to come out on Friday.

In anticipation of this, Aaron has been spending a ton of time on Capitol Hill recently, mostly meeting with the tax staffers of Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee. What stood out from those meetings is the real need to educate our lawmakers about what’s exactly at stake by highlighting the kinds of gifts in their state that may disappear if they repeal the estate tax.

We urge concerned citizens, especially those who work in charitable organizations, to tell their senators why repealing the estate tax is bad idea.

For a quick overview on key issues, read Estate Tax Repeal Would Be Devastating for Philanthropy in America.

Yna C. Moore is senior director of communications at NCRP. Follow @ynamoore and @NCRP on Twitter.

Image by Smart Destinations. Used under Creative Commons license.

Estate Tax