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Hold off on implementing state’s charitable tax deduction

A view of the Massachusetts State House and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge behind it.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Tax break would be costly, unfair, and ineffective

The Globe editorial supporting a state charitable deduction provides readers with an incomplete view of this expensive and lopsided tax giveaway (“Giving a boost to nonprofits in their time of need,” July 23). The Massachusetts Department of Revenue estimates that this tax break will cost $300 million in its first full year, and the cost will grow from there. This is far above the $64 million, partial-year figure the Globe cites.

Moreover, the benefits would go overwhelmingly to the highest-income households: More than half would go to those with incomes above $1 million, and another 22 percent would go to those with incomes between $200,000 and $1 million. Only 4 percent of the tax benefits would go to those with incomes below $50,000.


Worse, the $300 million in lost yearly revenue would do little to increase giving to Massachusetts charitable organizations. For high-income filers, the federal charitable deduction provides a tax break seven times larger than the Massachusetts tax break would deliver. It is the federal credit that will influence decisions around charitable giving, not the state credit.

A $300 million annual hole in the state budget will end up hurting the mission of many Massachusetts nonprofits. The Legislature should delay implementation of this expensive, unfair, and ineffective tax break.

Kurt Wise

Senior analyst

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center


The writer focuses on tax policy.

If you really want to boost nonprofits, fund them directly

Having raised millions of philanthropic dollars in my career, I think charitable contributions are wonderful. Massachusetts residents sustain the nonprofit sector through their taxes and charitable contributions. But introducing state tax deductibility for charitable contributions is a bad idea. The story we are told in your editorial is that desperate community nonprofits — “everything from community centers and homeless shelters to pandemic-shuttered arts organizations” — will benefit from implementation of this tax deduction. But charitable contributions mainly benefit already well-resourced hospitals, museums, schools, colleges, and churches, not local community nonprofits. Furthermore, as suggested in the editorial, and attested to by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the main beneficiaries of this new state tax deduction would be the wealthy.


We have this backward. We have untreated sewage flowing into rivers, some beaches that are unusable, a subway system in need of billions of dollars in improvements, schools that can’t be used in the summer because of poor ventilation, highways and bridges crumbling, a general failure to prepare our coastlines and infrastructure for global warming, and, yes, community nonprofits desperately in need of support, yet we continue to reduce taxes in ways that mainly benefit the wealthy.

We have many great needs in our Commonwealth that are not funded because we are told we don’t have the money. People already get the opportunity to receive upward of 35 percent of their contributions to nonprofits back in the form of cuts to their federal taxes. Providing another nickel in lowered taxes from the Commonwealth for every dollar donated will not dramatically increase contributions to our community nonprofits. Yes, the state should help nonprofits, but it should fund them directly.

Bill Walczak


The writer is cofounder of the Codman Square Health Center.