Tax Code Should Encourage Companies to Take On Philanthropic Roles

Consumers expect corporations to do more than just provide goods and services.

The excessively complicated and burdensome tax code has created barriers for companies that want to give back, writes Rep. Dave Reichert. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Michael Pirron spent the first several decades of his career traveling to different countries and continents as a senior consultant. The work was interesting, and allowed him to see the world and learn new languages. But something was missing.

Like many entrepreneurs, Pirron not only wanted to do well for himself but to do well for his community and the causes he cared about. It was this drive that eventually led him to found a socially conscious management and technology consulting company that helps private companies and public sector organizations manage transformation across IT, security, digital and people.

While it may sound like a traditional consulting firm, Impact Makers is approaching consulting differently – both in terms of how they serve their clients and their model.

Impact Makers donates 100 percent of its net profits over the life of the company to local charity partners, including Family Lifeline. With that support, Family Lifeline was able to touch over 2,800 lives across central Virginia. Including helping Akilah, a young mother, find a regular pediatrician for her daughter, secure permanent housing for her family, and get enrolled at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. As Impact Makers continues to grow, it will bring local community partners along with it.

Pirron is not alone in his ambitions to do well while also doing good. Social entrepreneurship and corporate philanthropic partnerships have been on the rise as consumers have come to expect companies to do more than just provide goods and services. Entrepreneurs and workers also want to be part of an organization that aligns with their values.

Philanthropic entrepreneurship has taken on a variety of models and causes, from supporting local nonprofits, as Impact Makers does, to focusing on broader issues, as does the food company Newman’s Own, which supports children with life-altering conditions and veterans. With this emerging brand of business, individuals no longer have to wait until they are privately wealthy to contribute to charities, they can do so every day they show up to work.

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Companies like Finnegans Brew Co. in Minneapolis, also often have a closer relationship with and a better understanding of their community’s needs than a bureaucratic agency in Washington, D.C. When Finnegans CEO, Jacquie Berglund, founded the craft beer company, she did so with the intention of addressing food security in communities across the Midwest by “turning beer into food.” Now, with local growers and charities, Berglund has been able to use Finnegans as a means to raise awareness about poverty in the region while expanding opportunities for Midwestern farmers.

Unfortunately, while the private sector and American consumers have embraced the growing number of businesses committed to making contributing to society a part of their core mission, the U.S. tax code has lagged behind. Instead of encouraging companies to take on philanthropic roles, the outdated, excessively complicated and burdensome tax code has created barriers for companies that want to give back. That is why I have introduced legislation with Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the Philanthropic Enterprise Act, to make it easier for the private sector to become a champion of some of the most pressing issues impacting our country.

I believe Congress must create an environment where businesses can do well by doing good. Failing to do so would be a tragic disservice to the countless individuals who have benefited and could benefit from corporate giving.

Reichert, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a Republican from Washington.

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