Update: Tax Bills Go to Conference

National Council of Nonprofits

A formal conference committee appointed to reconcile differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed tax bills is scheduled to meet inopen session on Wednesday, December 13. Senior Republican leaders, who control the votes, reportedly have been working informally behind closed doors for more than a week to craft a deal. While both versions of the tax bill add $1.5 trillion or more to the federal deficit, there are scores of differences in the manner and duration of tax cuts for corporations and individuals.

Both bills would impose multiple new taxes on tax-exempt charitable and philanthropic organizations to pay for additional tax cuts. Neither bill includes a universal deduction or other provision to counter the expected drop in giving to charitable works in communities due to the doubling of the standard deduction and the reduction of itemizers to less than ten percent of taxpayers. The House-passed bill, but not the Senate version, includes Section 5201 that would significantly weaken the longstanding protections under the Johnson Amendment that currently prevent candidates for public office and donors from strong-arming 501(c)(3) organization for endorsements while, for the first time, providing charitable tax deductions for political campaign contributors. See the Council of Nonprofits’Comparison Chart for more information about how the two bills would affect nonprofits.

As members of the tax conference, known as “conferees,” work through the details, they are limited by Senate rules and a very thin Republican majority in how much more they can spend and how extreme a bill they can adopt. Republicans will be drafting a bill to satisfy their competing factions and voter base. Democratic conferees will have little say in the final product, as has been the case in both the House and Senate tax committee deliberations and floor debates. Both chambers of Congress will vote on the legislation, but the details of the ultimate bill will be determined by these 27 tax conferees from 19 states:

House Conferees: Brady (R-TX) Tax Conference Chairman; Young (R-AK); Nunes (R-CA); Roskam (R-IL); Shimkus (R-IL); Upton (R-MI); Noem (R-SD); Black (R-TN); Bishop (R-UT); Grijalva (D-AZ); Castor (D-FL); Neal (D-MA); Levin (D-MI); and Doggett (D-TX).

Senate Conferees: Murkowski (R-AK); Portman (R-OH); Toomey (R-PA); Scott (R-SC); Thune (R-SD); Cornyn (R-TX); Hatch (R-UT); Enzi (R-WY); Carper (D-DE); Stabenow (D-MI); Menendez (D-NJ); Wyden (D-OR) ); Sanders (I-VT); Cantwell (D-WA); and Murray (D-WA.

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