Retirees get new charitable tax break

Here are the week’s top nonprofit news stories reported elsewhere:

* According to a new law, individual-retirement-account holders over age 70-and-a-half can donate up to $100,000 to charity tax-free from their accounts through 2007, The Chicago Tribune reported Oct. 29. The legislation, described by some as charities’ most significant boost since the development of donor-advised funds, does not affect taxable income but does count towards the account owner’s minimum distribution for IRA withdrawals, officials say.

* The American Red Cross will change the size and management role of its 50-member board, reducing it to 12 to 20 members and removing the chairman’s position as principal officer, if Congress approves of the plans, The New York Times reported Oct. 31. The charity has been criticized for its response to Hurricane Katrina, but officials say the structural changes would not necessarily help its performance in a disaster.

* Fearful that donations to Islamic charities may catch unwanted attention from federal agents looking for potential ties to terrorism, Muslim Americans donated significantly less this Ramadan than in past years, The New York Times reported Oct. 30. According to Islam, for which charity is one of the five main tenets, the holy month of Ramadan is a time of giving, and sacred texts define the minimum amount to be donated at 2.5 percent of net annual earnings.

* Despite revenue generated from corporate sponsorships, TV deals and coaches with lavish contracts, Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, says the NCAA deserves its tax-exempt status, The New York Times reported Oct. 31. His statement, supported by outside counsel, came in response to a recent letter requesting justification from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

* Howard Leonard, head of Wall Watchers, a group that researches and reports on how religious organizations use their charitable donations, says television evangelist Joyce Meyer used contributions to benefit herself and her ministry, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 30. Unlike other nonprofits, which are required to file tax returns, churches do not report how much they receive, from whom and how it is spent.

* Oprah Winfrey gave debit cards worth $1,000 each to more than 300 audience members with the charge of donating the money to a charitable cause of their choice, the Associated Press reported Oct. 30. The sum can be given to one recipient or split among several.

* Chinese environmental nonprofits will play a larger role in advising the government on environmental affairs, the deputy head of the State Environment Protection Administration said at a conference on the sustainable growth of China’s environmental NGOs, the People’s Daily Online reported Oct. 29.

* Most charities in Singapore are conservative when it comes to investment, says a new study by the Saw Center for Financial Studies at the National University of Singapore, the Media Corp Press reported Oct. 31. One in four keep all their funds in bank deposits, the study says, while other popular options include shares and bonds.

–Compiled by Laura Newman

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