Document Type


Publication Title

Virginia Tax Review



Publication Date



corporate philanthropy, corporate charity


The tax law governing corporate philanthropy is stuck in an archaic notion of corporate charity that does not necessarily benefit either charities or corporate stakeholders. Four developments in the last few years provoked this reexamination of the Internal Revenue Code and its awkward dichotomy between business expenses and charitable contributions. They offer new reasons for replacing the charitable contribution deduction for corporations with a business expense deduction: (1) a statutory reduction in the rate of tax on dividends received by individual shareholders, (2) empirical evidence showing very low effective tax rates paid by corporations, (3) death of the preeminent model of corporate philanthropy - Berkshire Hathaway's shareholder-designation program, and (4) adoption of final capitalization regulations that significantly weaken the capitalization requirement and no longer pose much of an obstacle to immediate deduction of corporate payments to charities. This seemingly small legal change offers many benefits in today's climate: it would increase the coherence of a corporation's tax treatment, help to minimize the agency costs in corporate philanthropy, and change the way that corporations define their charitable endeavors, encouraging greater overall corporate commitment to charitable and community needs, both within and outside their business operations.