Charitable Tax Deduction Swaps

Could charities parlay tax breaks into bigger donations? Scenario: Generous Jill is in a 15 percent tax bracket. If she donates $1,000 directly to her favorite charity, she saves $150 on her taxes, right? But say the charity is also supported by Benefactor Bob, who is in a 30 percent bracket. He could give the charity even more without costing either of them an extra penny. Here’s how: She relays $850, her net cost, through the charity, which is handling the deal (so she’s sure she’s not involved a scam), to Bill, who in turn sends the charity for $1,214. He breaks even, and the charity’s ahead an extra 21.4 percent! (Of course, there are other possible arrangements, where Jill and Bob keep a bit more for their troubles.) If it’s not legal (I don’t know), why not push to make it legal? Businesses barter pollution credits and tax losses, I’ve read. So why not have transferrable donation tax-credit programs? Would cost us taxpayers more, you say. Maybe not. The government gives a lot of money to help needy people who might be better helped by charities.

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