Emil Ford Lawyers

Philanthropy in Australia & the US

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

In Australia, the super-wealthy have the best of both worlds. They enjoy opportunities to halve their effective tax rates though salary sacrificing, negative gearing and income splitting through family trusts; as well, they are untouched by a culture of noblesse oblige that in other countries propels the rich to give back to the community.

Here the rich, along with everyone else, rely on government to fix social problems and fund services, while pumping their own fortunes into real estate and personal consumption.

But the government is cutting spending and even in the big spending days under John Howard, funds did not necessarily reach unpopular but worthy causes, or disadvantaged groups.

"This recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald points to a number of issues regarding philanthropy, both in Australia and the U.S.," stated Rick Dunham, President+CEO of Dunham+Company, a global fundraising company with offices in the U.S. and Australia. "The average American household gives around 2 per cent of household income to charity every year, compared to 0.4 per cent for the average Australian. This level of giving in America creates significantly less reliance on the government to provide vital social services to the local community as well as society at large. The incentive for that generosity is the charitable tax deduction, which is all the more reason for U.S. policymakers to protect this vital deduction and not cap, limit or eliminate it."

Nathan Brown, Vice President+General Manager of Dunham+Company in Australia added, "Seeing the significant disparity in the amount given to charity by household between America and Australia, we believe it would greatly benefit the charitable sector in Australia, and Australian society as a whole, if the Australian government would create a tax deduction scheme similar to that which has been the mainstay of American philanthropy for decades. Clearly, it is a significant incentive to greater philanthropy."

David Ford, a director of Dunham+Company in Australia, agrees with Rick and Nathan that more could be done to encourage philanthropy in Australia but also notes that much is being done under the current legal framework under which charities and not-for-profits operate in Australia. Emil Ford Lawyers have, for example, worked with charities to set up various Deductible Gift Recipient funds (for example, necessitous circumstances funds , overseas aid funds, funds on the Register of Cultural Organisations, scholarship funds, school building funds, library funds).


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