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Richard Piatt ReportingThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is giving input on tax reform at the state capitol. A representative from the Church personally testified before a joint committee today.
Church leaders are specifically opposed to eliminating income tax deductions for charitable giving. Right now that is part of a flat tax proposal that's gained a little momentum this summer.
The Church's rare Capitol Hill appearance came in a Tax Reform Task Force meeting, but the attorney speaking for the Church declined an on-camera interview. Audio transcripts capture the essence of the Church's concerns.
Jon Butler, LDS Church Attorney: "The belief is there should be a culture of giving and that there should be incentives to encourage giving, sharing."
Contributions to charities like the United Way are now tax deductible in Utah, but a potential majority of decision makers on the task force favor a Flat Tax proposal, which would change that. The flat tax would impose a single tax rate for everyone in the interest of fairness. But it would eliminate charitable deductions, as well as deductions for dependents and mortgage interest.
Organizations like the United Way also have concerns about the idea.
Thomas Love, United Way: "Some argue that deductibility does not act as an incentive to contribute. We believe incentives do work and that's why they exist."
The Flat Tax carries a lot of weight with many heavy hitters here, but the Church's personal appearance is creating second thoughts. In another recorded exchange, Representative John Dougall seeks for guidance on how much weight to put on the Church's statement.
Rep. John Dougall, (R) American Fork: "Is this a moral position or just a public policy statement?"
Attorney Jon Butler: "That's a good question."
Rep. John Dougall: "My understanding, what I take it as, is a public policy statement and nothing more than that."
Rep. Greg Hughes, (R) Draper: "I still think that leaves room for policy makers to make a vote of conscience, to look at the flat tax and decide if it serves their constituents."
But the Church picks its public policy battles very carefully, which in itself is a powerful and subtle message to this task force.