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Mixed signals – Hurdles continue

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President Bush’s plan to expand government support for religious charities is getting both a fresh start and new roadblocks, according to news reports.

A Republican leader outlined Bush’s proposed tax incentives to charitable giving, while a Democratic leader raised legal and policy questions about the Bush plan.

In testimony June 6 to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania spelled out four major tax provisions in the bill he introduced in March with Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to give tax incentives for charitable giving, TaxWire reported.

The bill, S. 592, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates would provide more than $87 billion in additional charitable giving and savings opportunity incentives, would:

Let non-itemizers deduct half their donations that exceed the standard deduction of $500, or $1,000 for joint filers.

Increase and extend to all businesses, including farmers and restaurant owners, the deduction for corporations that donate food.

Let owners of individual retirement accounts who are 59 or older roll IRA assets directly into a charity or deferred charitable gift plan without paying taxes – and without counting the donation as a charitable deduction.

Give tax credits to financial institutions that offer matched savings accounts to help poor families buy a first home, pay for college or build a small business.

At the same time, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who offered a bill to boost the donated food deduction, voice “grave concerns” about where Bush’s faith-based “may lead us,” The Boston Globe reported June 7.

On his first day as the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy held a hearing on the plan and said Congress “should proceed with great care” to give religious charities greater access to federal dollars to deliver social services, the Globe said.

For full story, go to TaxWire and The Boston Globe.

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