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Donors without Borders

A Comparative Study of Tax Law Frameworks for Individual Cross-Border Philanthropy

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2013
Keywords comparative, philanthropy, tax, deduction, international
Authors Joseph E. Miller, Jr.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Under current United States tax law, individual gifts to foreign charities generally are not deductible from federal income tax as charitable contributions. A comparative study of analogous tax laws in Switzerland and the United Kingdom demonstrates that the Swiss approach generally reflects the same prohibition against tax deductions for individual gifts to foreign charities, while British law permits such deductibility for gifts to qualified charities in other EU member states, Norway, and Iceland.
    All three countries’ legal frameworks demonstrate that their respective notions of the ‘public interest’ significantly affect their approaches to deductibility for gifts to foreign charities. The British conception of public interest, enlarged by participation in the European Union and the nondiscrimination requirements of the EU treaties, is embodied in its more expansive deductibility rules. Swiss non-participation in the EU, by contrast, reflects a more isolationist notion of public interest and may inform its prohibition on deductions for gifts to foreign charities. The narrower Swiss approach parallels the United States’ approach, and it suggests that an American expansion of deductibility for foreign charitable gifts could be encouraged by American participation in the proposed TPP, TTIP, or other multilateral trade agreements or economic unions.


Joseph E. Miller, Jr.
Joseph E. Miller is partner at Faegre Baker Daniels.
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