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Santorum

"[R]emember, the president proposed eliminating charitable deductions for higher-income taxpayers."

Rick Santorum on Sunday, February 19th, 2012 in a speech

Santorum attack on Obama off the mark

If President Barack Obama has his way, it won’t pay for some to give anymore.

Well, that’s the message Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum told an audience of about 3,000 people at a recent campaign stop in Georgia.

Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, accused the president of attacking religious freedom in a political speech at the First Redeemer Church in Forsyth County. For the record, the church’s pastor has not endorsed a candidate in the race and said he’s invited every candidate, including Obama, to speak at his church.

About 45 minutes into his remarks, Santorum made this statement: "Now we have an administration that’s trying to wipe the decks. Yes, remember, the president proposed eliminating charitable deductions for higher-income taxpayers to cripple further these … churches and nonprofits."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Galloway reported the remarks in his Political Insider blog. PolitiFact Georgia wondered about this line about Obama’s proposal to eliminate charitable deductions for higher-income taxpayers.

Obama has consistently proposed changes in charitable deductions that some religious organizations and nonprofit groups say would reduce giving by the rich. The White House counters that his ideas would result in "modest" changes, while others say the wealthy will still give.

The president has proposed in his budget for fiscal year 2013 a reduction -- but not eliminating deductions for individuals making more than $200,000 a year or families reporting income greater than $250,000. The fiscal year will begins Oct. 1 and end Sept. 30, 2013.

The proposal is similar to other plans Obama has put forward since taking office in 2009, experts on the matter told PolitiFact Georgia. The president has talked about reducing the deduction for the wealthiest income earners from 35 percent to 28 percent. None could recall an outright proposal to completely eliminate the deductions for higher-income Americans.

"It’s limiting, not eliminating," Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said of the Obama plan.

Nick Kasprak, an analyst at the Tax Foundation, said he was not aware of any effort by the Obama White House to eliminate charitable deductions for the highest income earners. He wondered whether Santorum was referring to the Pease Limitation, which reduces most itemized deductions by a complicated formula (we’re talking about the government here) that involves an individual’s adjusted gross income. But the Pease Limitation would not completely eliminate deductions for the wealthy.

Williams suggested Santorum may have slipped up in this part of his speech to the Forsyth County audience.

"It could be a loose statement," Williams said, being charitable.

The Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan congressional committee, said in a report last year that charitable deductions cost the federal government $30 billion to $40 billion a year.    

PolitiFact Georgia filled out a form on Santorum’s campaign website with questions about this statement, but it didn’t get a reply. We also called the Santorum campaign, which cheerfully asked us to send an email to a campaign spokesman. We emailed the spokesman twice but didn’t get a reply.

Santorum’s statement seems off base from anything we’ve seen or read.

The Obama administration has talked repeatedly about reducing charitable deductions, not eliminating them. We rate Santorum’s claim as False.

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About this statement:

Published: Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 at 6:00 a.m.

Subjects: Taxes

Sources:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Political Insider blog, "Rick Santorum and the pursuit of happiness," Feb. 19, 2012

YouTube video of Rick Santorum speech at First Redeemer Church, posted Feb. 20, 2012

Obama administration explanation of Fiscal Year 2013 revenue proposals

PolitiFact, "Eric Cantor blog post attacks Barack Obama for tax on soup kitchens," Sept. 15, 2010

Telephone interview with Nick Kasrpak, analyst and programmer, Tax Foundation, Feb. 22, 2012

Telephone interview with Dorothy Brown, law professor, Emory University, Feb. 23, 2012

Telephone interview with Michael Graetz, law professor, Columbia University, Feb. 23, 2012

Telephone interview with Roberton Williams, senior fellow, Tax Policy Center, Feb. 23, 2012

The Washington Post, "Nonprofit groups oppose Obama’s change in charitable deductions," Feb. 17, 2012

Written by: Eric Stirgus
Researched by: Eric Stirgus
Edited by: Jim Denery, Jim Tharpe

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