Too much transparency
Religion & Liberty Online

Too much transparency

The incongruence of a culture that insists on knowledge of every detail about charity donations and yet puts no value on a disabled woman’s life is frankly mind-boggling. But let’s move beyond value of human life and focus on the importance of telling the truth and being honest. Stanley Carlson-Thies, formerly of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, makes a superb point that like too much of any good thing, too much transparency just might “turn” on the good intentions of Senator Grassley and his increased charity oversight project. Good intentions are simply not enough.

Despite the stated commitment to not harm small charities, and despite the literally hundreds of experts invited by Independent Sector to advise the committee, discussion has yet to focus–or even include–the truly unique nature of neighborhood-centered, faith-informed, people-passionate charities. The discussion of severely limiting noncash deductions (“lumping” farm land, artwork, and canned goods in the same regulatory sphere) should be a huge red flag. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy (subscription, 4-14-05, pages 27-29), George Yin, Congressional chief of staff for the Joint Taxation Committee, is eyeing more than $2.5 billion if the regs were changed to suit him.

Somehow TurboTax® ItsDeductible®, which complies with current IRS guidelines, pales in comparison.

At what point does reasonable transparency become paparazzi? Like paparazzi, the charity governance as the Senate is picturing it just might cause damage that they never intended, but happened nonetheless. The reality is that the nonprofit charity world has very, very different goals, workers, donors, histories, and ties. To seriously consider a ‘one size fits all’ IRS solution is naive…and frankly, mind-boggling.