Time to tweak the budget

From www.supremecourt.gov
From www.supremecourt.gov

What does a Supreme Court decision on marriage have to do with pro-life work? Directly, nothing. Indirectly, though, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision is bound to mean changes in which organizations the IRS deems worthy of the tax status known as 501(c)3. That sort of thing is very much in Caesar’s domain, so to speak. So are property taxes, and while they’re local, I suspect any tax exemption for a charitable organization’s property is linked to the c3 status of the organization.

So what are you going to do about that, if you itemize your deductions on your tax return? Would you still donate to a pro-life ministry even if it didn’t have c3 status? How about if you’re a board member of a church-affiliated pro-life agency, and your church dissents from the Court fiat on marriage? If I were a donor to such agencies – and I have been – I’d want to know what they’re doing to prepare for loss of tax-exempt status.

No scare tactics here. I simply think it’s inevitable that churches holding to one-man-one-woman marriage, and thereby dissenting from the Supreme Court, will have their exemptions yanked over the next few years. Many of those churches operate ministries for support of pregnant and parenting young people, hospice care, respite care, emergency housing, education… the list could go on. Those ministries are invaluable. People rely on them daily.

Sign on the National Mall at 2013 March for Life
Sign on the National Mall at 2013 March for Life

It would be inexcusable for those agencies not to have a plan in place to keep operating in the event of a shift in tax policy. That shift is going to cause a lot a displacement, I’m sure. Are you prepared as a donor? Are you prepared as a board member or employee of a currently tax-exempt human services organization? Are you prepared to act without bitterness but with calm pragmatism?

I’m not an attorney or a tax expert, but if I were running a tax-exempt organization, even a small one, I’d make sure at this point that I had at least one of each on call.

The time to tweak the budgets is now, not at the moment the IRS and local tax assessor come calling. Plan what to give, free of a tax deduction. Plan what to spend, with taxes as a line item. Litigate if you can afford it (abortion advocacy agencies can show you how that’s done), but be prepared in case of a loss. Caesar’s awake and on the prowl.

Maybe Dorothy Day was right. If I understand correctly, she was deeply suspicious of special federal tax status for charitable work, including her own. She reportedly quoted St. Hilary: “The less we ask of Caesar, the less we will have to render to Caesar.”


 

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  1. Pingback: Will SCOTUS marriage decision affect nonprofits? | EllenKolb.com

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