HOLLIDAYSBURG - A Hollidaysburg councilman recently made his way with others to Capitol Hill in an effort to protect charitable tax deductions.
Tim Beresnyak, a certified fundraising executive and development director for the Franciscans of the Third Order Regular in Hollidaysburg, and hundreds of nonprofit executives lobbied lawmakers last week about tax policies that encourage giving to help support critical programs and services for people in need, according to the Charitable Giving Coalition, a group of more than 50 nonprofit, charitable and other organizations, and the friars.
"Congress is seriously considering whether to retain, modify or eliminate the charitable deduction," a news release said. "The potential result: the loss of billions of dollars, which would impede the important work that nonprofits do for the millions of Americans who rely on them."
Beresnyak, who has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2000, represented the National Catholic Development Conference and the American Fundraising Professionals.
"Now is not the time to dismantle incentives that support the crucial work of nonprofits in our communities," Beresnyak said. "Congress and the Obama administration must recognize the value of the charitable deduction as a way to support a thriving, independent nonprofit sector that serves millions of people in every community in America."
A United Way public opinion poll of Americans found 79 percent believe reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction would have a negative impact on charities and the people they serve, the release said. Of those who would reduce charitable giving, 62 percent would have to reduce their contributions by 25 percent or more. Two out of every three are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.
People gave nearly $300 billion to support charitable causes in 2011, according to Giving USA, the release said. Communities reap up to $3 in benefits for every $1 subject to charitable deduction, data suggests.
In 2011, 85 percent of nonprofits experienced higher demand for their services, according to the Nonprofit Finance Fund, the release said. The same demand is expected this year.
"Any caps or limits on charitable giving will have a devastating impact on charities and nonprofits," the release said. "If donors have less incentive to give to charities donations will decline, impeding the important work nonprofits do for the millions of Americans who rely on them. The fact is that those hit hardest by the economic downturn and unemployment will be hurt the most."
The Franciscans annually serve over 100,000 people through ministry in hospitals, schools, churches and retreat centers, and help to support charitable work in 17 countries, Beresnyak said.
"Without generous giving from individual donors, the friars would not exist here in Hollidaysburg, and due to our religious affiliation, we do not qualify for government grants and are reliant on individual contributors," he said. "We are just one small example. When you consider even larger nonprofit employers in the community like universities and hospitals, you really see how any change in charitable giving will have an impact on our region."
Lobby participants met with federal lawmakers and policymakers, including Sens. Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, D-8th District.
"Sen. Casey's top priority during the fiscal cliff debate is protecting the middle class and keeping the economy growing," Casey spokesman John Rizzo said Friday.
"He has urged Republicans and Democrats to prevent the middle-class tax hike and extend the payroll tax cut for another year. Sen. Casey has voted to protect the charitable deductions in the past and believes that Congress needs to work towards a solution on this issue that does not unduly burden charitable organizations given the challenges these organizations face in a difficult economy."
State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, is a supporter.
"I generally support a deduction for charitable giving under the current system," he said. "Ideally, a flat tax would be my preference, but that is not how the federal government operates today."
He believes a better means test for charitable work is needed, he said.
Beresnyak encourages people to contact their representatives on the matter of protecting charitable tax deductions.