Rethinking the Ethics of Tax Deductions

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To the Editor:

Re “Make a Difference This Tax Season,” by Matthew Desmond (Opinion guest essay, April 14):

Mr. Desmond is, of course, right that tax rates and tax deductions are heavily skewed to favor the very wealthy. One of the solutions he offers, however, asks the somewhat wealthy to imitate the very wealthy: Take your deduction and give to your favorite charities.

That’s how the taxpayers end up subsidizing — through deductible philanthropy — huge bequests to operas, billionaires’ alma maters, vanity art collections and other pet projects.

If people just didn’t take the deductions, as Mr. Desmond also proposes, the savings could help fund main government responsibilities like schools, safety, health care and the like.

Better yet, reform the deductions.

Claude S. Fischer
Berkeley, Calif.
The writer is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.

To the Editor:

If I forgo a few thousand dollars in tax deductions to which I am legally entitled, can I tell the government please add this to the low-income housing budget and don’t spend it on the F135 fighter jet engine?

I believe that I should pay higher taxes, and so should everyone as rich as I am, or richer. If they did, I would happily pay my share. Until the tax laws require this, I would rather take the deduction and contribute to the Economic Policy Institute or United for a Fair Economy, two nonprofits that are working for a fair tax system.

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