Sen. Suzio pushing bill allowing tax breaks in exchange for social service donations

February 23, 2017

Sen. Suzio pushing bill allowing tax breaks in exchange for social service donations

(Meriden Record-Journal)

Two bills proposing tax breaks in exchange for donations will be part of a public hearing Friday before the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

One of the bills, from Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, would create a special social services account, with contributions being tax deductible. The proposal would establish a “Citizens in Need” fund, with donations going to social services, particularly those that face cuts or underfunding in the budget.

Suzio suggested the fund he seeks to create through legislation could be used for other needs related to social services, including diminishing federal benefits to needy families.

“I can think of one thing after the other,” he said.

The bill would allow donors to deduct their contribution from their state and federal income tax obligations — Connecticut currently doesn’t allow such deductions for charitable contributions — with the state benefit being double.

Suzio said that someone donating $1 million, for example, could get a write-off of nearly $135,000 from their income taxes. He added donors should be able to roll over any unused benefit into the following year.

“Even the most liberal legislators up here are always saying ‘tax the wealthy, make the wealthy pay their fair share,’” he said. “Well this convinces them to do it voluntarily.”
Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, co-chairman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, called the proposal an “interesting way” to entice donations and offer a tax break, but said he needed to review the bill further.

In particular, he said, he had questions about whether the state could afford to offer such an income tax deduction given its current fiscal situation.

“There’s a lot of proposals out there to reduce taxes and reduce revenue and here we are recognizing we have a budget challenge, so the probability to be able to do those things is difficult, particularly if we’re doubling the amount,” he said.

Rojas also said the legislature would need to ensure that the funding only goes toward intended uses, but expressed concern about creating a so-called “lock box” for the fund. He said doing so would lead to other advocacy groups seeking the same protection for their interest areas of the budget.

Suzio’s bill already received support, via written testimony, from more than a dozen state residents.

Among the supporters was Wallingford accountant William Saas, who said the bill “appears likely to induce those charitably inclined toward tax-favored support to fellow citizens.”