Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2009

Center/Program

The Charles Evans Gerber Transactional Studies Center

Center/Program

Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy

Abstract

The charitable deduction has enjoyed relatively little support in the legal academy. Many commentators have asked what it adds to the tax system and, as critics such as Stanley Surrey and Paul McDaniel have observed, the deduction obviously does not itself collect tax revenue. 1 Defenders respond that the deduction helps to measure income and to keep taxpayers from inefficiently substituting leisure for work, but these points are, of course, contested.2 Instead of revisiting debates about what the deduction adds to the tax system, this Article focuses on the broader question of what it adds to the pursuit of public goals. The deduction-and any other government subsidy that matches charitable contributions through the tax system (here called "subsidized charity")-enlists private individuals to pursue public goals in a somewhat unique manner. While in other settings the government delegates implementation but still specifies the goal to be pursued,3 charitable donors are allowed to select the goal as well.4 Is it desirable to pursue public goals in this way?5

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