The Effect of the Capital Gains Tax on Donations of Cash and Appreciated Assets
Elements of the tax code can affect an individual's decision to contribute to charity by altering the price of donating. The capital gains tax reduces the price of giving appreciated assets relative to giving cash, suggesting that reductions in the capital gains rate should lead to decreases in the donations of appreciated assets relative to cash, while increases in the capital gains rate should lead to increases in the donations of appreciated assets relative to cash. In this study, OLS models are applied to pooled aggregate individual income tax data from the IRS for tax years 1981-2003 to estimate the relationship between the ratio of noncash donations to cash donations and the ratio of the price of donating appreciated assets to the price of donating cash. The results indicate that only high income donors respond to changes in the capital gains tax rate by changing the composition of their charitable contributions. Since high income donors contribute more than any other income group to charities, and some charities may prefer cash donations to donations of appreciated assets, changes to the capital gains tax rate should not be made without considering the potential impact on charities.
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