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Tax Reform: Why All the Whining? (2)

There has been considerable discussion lately about the many ways in which "tax reform" adversely changes the ground rules of operation of independent colleges and universities. Still greater reliance on direct government appropriation is not a good an-swer: that would further erode the pluralism and independence that have been the genius of the U.S. system of higher education and scholarship. In one respect, however, tax reform may encourage private philanthropy. The charitable deduction agains

By | October 20, 1986

There has been considerable discussion lately about the many ways in which "tax reform" adversely changes the ground rules of operation of independent colleges and universities. Still greater reliance on direct government appropriation is not a good an-swer: that would further erode the pluralism and independence that have been the genius of the U.S. system of higher education and scholarship.

In one respect, however, tax reform may encourage private philanthropy. The charitable deduction against taxable income is no incentive to philanthropy when that income is already sheltered by myriad other devices. If tax reform really does fairly expose that income to taxation, prospective philanthropists will be less distracted by the innumerable schemes for tax avoidance whose concoction now occupies a substantial part of our gross national product.

In the last analysis, the most important impact of tax reform will be on the health of the U.S. economy. So many factors impinge on this that it will be difficult to dissect what part tax reform will have played. It cannot be said that this was profoundly analyzed and discussed during the congressional de bate.

Lederberg is president of The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, and a member of THE SCIENTIST'S editorial board.

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