Comments about ‘Elder Oaks testifies before Senate committee, defends charitable deductions’

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Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 9:00 a.m. MDT

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Roy, UT

I should note that since Pres. Obama is traveling about on a Canadian made bus, paid for with tax dollars, talking about his efforts to increase jobs in America...since he is actually campaigning for re-election concurrentlly, a cut in charitable donations would go directly to paying for his campaign for a second term in office, by paying for the buses and who knows what else.

It does not matter who initially thought of cutting the deductions for charitable donations, it really matters who is pushing that idea now, and it appears to be the President.


I am amazed to read all the responses that call this a tax by Obama and the far reaching theories of how charitable donations will be impacted. Fact it is not a tax but the elimination of a tax loop-hole and no it doesn't mean the charity will get less of the donated amount, the donated amount is still the amount. Charities properly registered are still able to collect donations at full value. Or to claim "studies" say liberal donate less is a very far-fetched bold face lie. To rant & rave about untrue facts does not make them anymore true.

To say if you don't get a deduction you might not donate says a lot about the person.


Re Dray, your agument sort of sounds like the financial arm of the mormon church. I just hope oaks or the mormons do not turn charitable giving in the opposite direction...The mormon church is a bad example to use with charitable giving and the distributions of those funds to those who need it--it is big business and should not be used as an example to those who truly distribute and need charity.

CHS 85
Sandy, UT


Let me ask you guys complaining about Obama's bus a question. Were you also opposed to President Bush traveling around in the EXACT kind of bus while campaigning for his second term in office by simply yelling "Iraq" and "terrorists?" Were you okay with President Bush (and all previous presidents back to Presient Kennedy) using Air Force One to travel as they deem necessary or is it only with Presidents Obama, Clinton, Johnson, or Kennedy?

Are you aware the the Secret Service and not President Obama bought that bus - as well as President Bush's former bus?

The partisan sniping from you guys is getting old.

Provo, UT

There is much abuse of the tax-exemption laws in this country. Many organizations use "charitable" status as a front for what amounts to fraud, for which they receive tax benefits. In my opinion, most religions are exactly that kind of organization.

But there are legitimate charitable organizations that do provide benefit to society at large. The LDS Church may or may not be such an organization - it is probably a mixture, providing some benefit in some areas, but hiding behind the "charitable" label to amass huge amounts of corporate wealth. I have my opinions on that.

What I will say, however, is that Oaks is correct in principle: pluralism is good. Charitable organizations are a legitimate component of our pluralistic society and economy, without which our American way of life and values would be less resilient, less responsive, and more impoverished.

We definitely need tax code reform, and a tightening of the tax-exempt/tax-deductible policies are in order. At very least, charitable organizations should be required by law to open their books and reveal their financial statements to the public or else forego the tax benefits.

Idaho Falls, ID

Kami, why not take the extra money you save on your deduction and give it to the church or some other charity where you know 100% will go directly to those in need, whereas if given to the government in the form of taxes, only about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar ends up in the hands of those the money was intended for (i.e. it takes approximately 75 cents of every dollar taken in to administer food stamps, one dollar donated as a fast offering goes 100% directly to feed the hungry). Seems to me we have the responsibility of wise stewardship over our money. It is noble that you don't want something in return for your donation. Isn't it more noble to make sure as much gets to the hands of those in need, not eaten up by a government bureaucracy?

Layton, UT

I am truly astounded at the number of posts which advocate turning over all to the government for the expansion and maintenance of the nanny state and lump all charitable organizations into one fraudulent entity. Then there are those who posit that tax exemptions are nothing but a government handout and a major source of the nations debt. Anyone who has a rudimentary knowledge of civics knows perfectly well that the whole nanny state is another name for socialism. As far as tax exemptions causing the nations debt? The money is not the states money that the state graciously allows me to use; it is mine, I worked hard for it and I posit that I should be the one to decide where it goes-not the state. I am not in favor of an increased amount of extortion so that Big Brother can have more money to play monopoly with. Furthermore, legitimate charities accomplish far more with far fewer funds and do a superior job.

Gregg Weber

The choice is simple. It is between the people becoming charitable and rise to a higher nature. The alternative is to not have charity and become an animal. There are some who want power so much that they not only become an animal. They force the people to lose charity to and figuratively grow fangs like an animal.
If the government takes over then it can control more then the 1/7th that is in medicine. They can push good people out of the way so that they can control charity the way they want for their and their friends benefit. Not the people.

Are these people American?

Sugar City, ID

Lots of people inculde tithing and other deductions when preparing their taxes only to find out that their deductions aren't as high as the standard deduction is anyway. Even if their tithing does put them over the top, usually it isn't much. I think the kind of deductions charitible organizations are most concerned about are the large ones made by the very wealthy and which do a huge amount of good. If a person gives "$50,000 dollars to the scholarship fund of a college could the government really make more efficient use of it? If someone donates $100,000 to the LDS church humanitarian fund, would the federal government actually make better use of it. If a person donates $230,000 (the amount of taxpayer dollars that was spent on the Obama family vacation in Africa) to help starving children in Africa, should he be taxed on it?

American Fork, UT

If charitable gifts are given with the caveat of ideology, are they still charitable?

John Jackson
Sandy, UT

I see Elder Oaks saying charitable deductions are a to-be-cherished thread of what we have become as a nation, that he should say the nature and future of our country would be affected if we abandon these deductions.

I appreciate his noting America has a uniqueness attached to the deductions. Do other countries not have charitable donations? Or is he referring to something else?

I do wish we would wash away most every other -- maybe every other -- deduction there is. If we were to get rid of charitable donations, though, I think we would have to look long and hard at the affect on charitable organizations (not from small contributors, who often do their giving without regard to whether they will get a deduction, but from the big philanthropist donators). We do not want to much weaken our charitable network. It is vital to our society and should be protected.

Topeno, Finland

First: the evil of SOCIALISM is that it burdens the individual to the limit where one CANNOT practise charity. The society robs that from the people! AND, that is the real issue in this debate.

Second: the Federal goverment and FEMA could not handle this effectively and passionately, as would charitable organizations.

Layton, UT

C'mon... I've seen so many mindless, reaction-based comments, ignoring mathematical sensibilities.

Elder Oaks's point is spot on. Look honestly. Removing the tax reduction on charitable giving will have an impact on charitable giving. NOT BECAUSE YOU GIVE TO CHARITY TO GET A TAX BREAK, but because if you don't get the tax break, less money is available.

If there's less money, less goes to charity. Stop pretending that this is about the tax break. It's about you having more means to contribute to the causes that you care about.

If you give nothing to charity now, you'll give nothing to charity afterwards, and really shouldn't have a say in this at all. Our country's generosity hinges upon the money it has--not upon some mythical amount of money that "feels good" regardless of one's income.

The direct result of repealing this, from the government side, is to limit the funds going to charities--which imo is a sign that the government thinks too highly of itself, and too little of the amazing amount of philanthropic good that the country does of its own free will.

Robbing charities, robs the American people the propensity to do good.

one vote
Salt Lake City, UT

We need to balance the budget, not give away money to tax loopholes.

Casa Grande, AZ

Let's give a hand to UNIONS that got us weekends off and enough disposable income to go on Sunday and give to churches!

Naa, lets continue to go third world. Churches in the third world have church on multiple days because people only have 1 day off a month. But in Chile they have shrines right there in the mine so.... very convienent really.

Let's have a look at China's charitable giving stats to see our future. Right now we need to support the rich.

Allen, TX

THe problem with this discussion is the same with every discussion on capitol hill. It is proposed as an all-or-nothing option. This polarization has to end!

I am all for phasing out all tax deductions - gradually - and replacing them with a flat tax. The flat tax rates also could be phased in. Over four years, drop all deductions by 25% per year, while instituting a 3-tier flat tax. I would have to study exact GDP and other numbers to get the right figures (something Cain has obviously not done on his 9-9-9 plan), but say we start at A 15% rate with full deductions for those making under $50K ($X) and graduate it down to 3% with no deductions at the end of 4 years. For those making $50K to 200K (or $X to $Y), start with a 24% rate and graduate it down to 7%, and for those over $200K, start with their 35% and gradually lower it to 10%, with no deductions.

No one is going to go for drastic overnight change. Over the same time frame we should phase in campaign finance reform and congressional term limits, to be discussed elsewhere later.

Paul in MD
Montgomery Village, MD

mightymite says donations to the LDS church support for-profit ventures, and that the church should open its books.

The LDS church uses tithing to build and maintain church buildings and fund worship-related expenses (like each ward's budget for books, stationary, electricity, etc). All other charitable donations are given to specific causes within the church (fast offerings to support the needy, education fund to help the poor get a good education, etc). While not all donations to the church are given for the purpose of supporting the poor, those that are DO go directly to that cause.

The church does own a number of for-profit entities. Taxes are paid and returns filed for each, according to IRS guidelines.

mightymite also derides the amount of funding given by the church to assist in Katrina cleanup - $13 million. He ignores the 3,000 tons of emergency supplies also provided by the church for the same effort. What the church gives is coordinated with officials in charge of the efforts, and some assistance offered is sometimes declined. The church has given and assisted with almost every disaster recovery effort in most places in the world for years.

Orem, Utah

@ Vanka,

Glad that you DON'T see any need for separation of church and state. Very socialistic of you.

Maybe all Americans should have a percentage of their pay automatically deducted and sent directly to the country's official church, like they do in socialist Germany.

Since the government would be giving the donations to the churche(s), they'd have access to the books. Right? Does that fit your view of religion?

Maybe you live in the wrong country.

Heber City, UT

Some bloggers complain how much the Church is spending on downtown and claim they have spent more doing this than their Humanitarian efforts, but fail to recognize the 75 years of the welfare system, which would be up in the multiple billions. I was in one stake that contributed more than $250,000 to fast offerings and it was not considered a wealthy stake. The members donated fare more money than they saved on the two meals during fasting. Multiple that on average over 2600 stakes and you have a nice amount of money to help the needy each year.

The same naysayers I think have not taken the time to tour Welfare Square and see how the Church is helping out. The Church seldom toots its own horn, that is not Christ's way. They just go about helping people, but those who hate the Church will use every means they can to negate its efforts.

Mapleton, UT

I don't think the government should be taxing citizens on money that doesn't enrich themselves. Money given away to charities should not be taxed, because it offsets the needs of the people who use government welfare programs. We are already taxed for government welfare programs, but if we choose to give on our own, they should not be double dipping on us. Furthermore, when we donate to charity on our own, it is far more efficient that when the government does it.

I agree with Elder Oaks, and all of you that disagree with him need to seriously consider these points.

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