The act of giving should be its own reward — not a reason for tax breaks

October 15, 2011

While Sean Smeetson's generous contribution to the community is commendable, his bemoaning proposed limits on tax deductions for charitable contributions diminishes the moral value of such contributions ("Don't punish the philanthropists," Oct. 12).

Derived from the Greek words meaning "love of mankind," philanthropy refers to a freely given action that benefits humanity and that usually involves some sort of uncompensated sacrifice.

No doubt tax incentives do increase the amount that wealthy individuals and corporations are willing to give. But they are also valuable government subsidies targeted at those already blessed with the wherewithal to give, not at those who are in most need.

Decreasing tax deductions for charitable contributions and diverting the money directly to the public good would more than offset any reduction in private giving, confer genuine meaning on philanthropic acts, and punish no one.

Irwin Fried, Baltimore

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