by Liz Moore, MNA Executive Director.
After the rush of pre-tax reform activity in December, January felt like a policy hiatus. We had a real victory at the end of 2017. We held the line on the Johnson Amendment thanks in part to so many Montana nonprofit leaders who reached out to our congressional delegation. Then we all took a collective breath. And in the pause, questions began to come out of hiding.
- How are we supposed to handle payroll withholding?
- What do the federal tax changes mean for the state budgets?
- What kinds of rules will be written to implement massive policy changes? And when will they be written?
- What is hidden in the new tax reform bill that impacts us?
- How will the doubling of the standard deduction impact charitable giving, or will it have any effect at all?
In response, the National Council of Nonprofits has created a special webpage, “Resources on How the New Federal Tax Law Impacts Charitable Nonprofits.” The site is continuously updated, and is a terrific resource for all of us. Your membership dues to MNA help fund the work of the National Council of Nonprofits, and I encourage you to take full advantage of their expertise. Especially this: a new checklist on the site, New Federal Tax Law – Now What for Nonprofit Board and Staff Members, answers questions about how the federal tax law affects the operations of charitable nonprofits (with the caveat that everyone is waiting for final guidance from the IRS). The page also provides a link to the national webinar the Council of Nonprofits hosted last month.
In terms of payroll and withholding, this guidance from the IRS will be useful if you speak this language. For the rest of us mere mortals, your accounting firm or local HR firm may be able to offer assistance. As soon as possible we will connect you to a webinar resource on the payroll issues. The firms we’ve reached out to are up to their elbows in tax season, but as the dust settles on tax reform we are certain we’ll be able to bring helpful information to you.
Looking ahead, we’re thinking about dark money and the impact on the charitable sector’s brand and integrity. And the impact on a healthy democracy, which is both the platform for a strong nonprofit sector, and an indicator of a vibrant nonprofit community. We’re also tuning to the 2020 census and our role in ensuring as robust an effort as possible in Montana.
At the state level, MNA’s Public Policy Council is beginning our work on the 2019 Legislative Session. We are working now on framing up our campaign for the renewal of the Montana Endowment Tax Credit, and we’ll keep you informed as we move forward.
I’m deeply aware that many of you have grave concerns about budgets, human rights, and the needs of men, women and children who face the challenges of poverty, disability, and illness – including mental illness. MNA is working every day to promote and uphold the strongest possible policy environment for you to operate in. We want your mission to be bolstered by the benefits of tax exemption, non-partisanship, a healthy culture of philanthropy and an appropriate regulatory climate.
I close with this statement from my friend Daniel Kemmis, who said “The nonprofit sector is the musculature of democracy.” We are what democracy looks like when it works. As a leader in the nonprofit sector and a fellow citizen, I’m so appreciative of the unique role we play collectively in strengthening our democracy and civil society in Montana. Thank you and be well.