"forcing" people to donate money to charity

a co-worker and i were having a discussion today about how lower income people donate significantly more of their income (percentage-wise) than higher income people. that was the key point in my argument that taxes are necessary to support projects like welfare and low-income housing. his argument had been that if people’s taxes went down significantly, they would give significantly more to charity.

anyway, he brought up an interesting idea, and i was wondering whether any politician had ever suggested it before.

basically, for every dollar you donated to certain charities* you got a one dollar tax-credit, up to a certain percentage of your income or a certain dollar amount. they idea was that privately run charities are more efficient, and people would feel better about giving money if they could choose organizations they cared about and could then see their money at work. so, basically the government would get out of the welfare business, but very strongly encourage the population to help the less fortunate through private charities.

any thoughts on that?

*one caveat of this whole thing is that there would need to be some kind of designation beyond “non-profit organization” that indicated that the non-profit directly contributed to the welfare of the less fortunate. only donations to non-profits with this special designation would be eligible for the credit. so, if you wanted to, you could give $1000 to your local museum and get the standard write-off, or donate $1000 to the local foodbank and get a full credit. or something like that.

This plan would lead to some very, very rich churches.

I don’t think this idea is feasible. The distinction between directly helpful non-profit and normal non-profit would be almost impossible to precisely define, from a legal standpoint. A foodbank is probably a directly helpful charity, but what about churches, like XPav mentioned? They do a lot of directly helpful work, but they also do a lot of other stuff, such as political campaigning, missionary work, or what-have-you.

Interesting thought, but it seems impractical.

Sounds like a tax-evasion scheme in the making. Here, join my “church”…

ya, these were things we talked about. there would definitely have to be very strict rules on what type of non-profits could obtain the special status and frequent re-verification.

Who makes the rules? John Ashcroft? Ted Kennedy? Winnie the Pooh?

Who makes the rules? John Ashcroft? Ted Kennedy? Winnie the Pooh?[/quote]

well, i assume the same people that make the tax rules now: congress.

I don’t think it’d be even possible to write the rules in a way that didn’t either destroy the special treatment churches have or result in massive tax evasion. The tax benefits are just too great.