As a people, we are taught to recoil at the concept of “tax loopholes,” just as we are taught to scorn “special interests.”
It is easier to embrace blind prejudice when we don’t bother to ask who are special interests or what are loopholes.
The words are sufficiently loaded with vitriol that it is not necessary to learn what the label-makers and name-callers are talking about.
And so it is that we listen without challenge when the politicians rail against “tax loopholes,” often made all the more reprehensible by adding “for the rich” to the epithet.
We live in a nation in which it has become popular to vilify success.
On Meet the Press, broadcast on Sunday morning, I finally got a brief insight into these accursed “tax loopholes,” courtesy of David Gregory, host of the show.
Gregory declared that of the Top 10 Tax Loopholes, the exemption for gifts to charity tops the list. I have heard the same sentiment expressed in other news coverage this week.
Oh, so that’s who the money-grubbing tax chiselers are, the people who give to their church each Sunday, who respond to United Way appeals, who give to local charities like the Bartow Church Service Center, HELP of Fort Meade, and the Lake Wales Care Center.
And let’s not forget those tightwads who pitch a few coins into Salvation Army kettles at this time of year, or spend a few extra bucks to buy groceries for Christmas baskets or to purchase a gift for an Angel Tree child whose father is in prison.
Shame, oh shame, on all of us!
Oops, did a tinge of sarcasm slip through my usually well-reasoned diatribes?
For something more than 20 years, I was treasurer of my church. I often said that if your church asks you to be treasurer, find another church; they don’t love you any more.
Don’t let this out, OK, but I was just kidding.
Thanks to the help of a CPA who was my yard man when he was a kid, the job of treasurer was broken into enough pieces that nobody, including the person who held the title, had to spend that much time on it.
The individual records of giving were posted by another person, and I neither knew nor cared who gave how much. I did know that we had a fair number of tithing households — those who chose to give the Biblically-prescribed 10 percent — but that was between them and the Almighty.
I did know a half-dozen or so parishioners I could call on for special needs, and I hope I did not call on them too often. I guess I didn’t, since they always came through.
And while I suspect that each of them took maximum advantage of their charitable giving on their tax returns, I doubt that any gave in order to advance their standing as tax laggards.
I believe they would have given without the tax incentive, because givers of that level of commitment are not motivated by “tax loopholes.”
Nonetheless, I felt then, as I do now, that our church, and yours, and the vast number of other charities out there, do a better job of stewardship with limited funds than the federal government.
The generosity of the donors who support them takes a certain burden off the government, helping those organizations and individuals who do not qualify for government largesse, or who choose not to seek it.
I have no problem seeing their contributions made without penalty from the IRS.
And if that is a tax loophole, then just call me Loopy.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He occasionally is called on by his church to give a brief talk to the parish on Christian stewardship. He calls it The Sermon on the Amount.)