Talk of taxes was in the air. Caesar Augustus had ordered the taxation, the Affordable Oppression and Extortion Act (AOEA), and the pundits were scrambling to figure out just what it would mean to people throughout the Empire. While the child tax credit and the standard deduction were up, experts were still not sure how betrothal would be treated under the new law. Would a small business such as a village carpentry shop be able to take advantage of the steep reduction in corporate taxes? The threshold for claiming medical expense deductions had been lowered, but most tax law professionals questioned the deductibility of manger straw, though swaddling clothes might meet the AOEA definition of medically necessary supplies.
While charitable contributions remained deductible, some analysts believed the AOEA was a disincentive to giving. With the higher standard deductions and marginally lower individual rates across all brackets, fewer citizens and members of occupied people groups were expected to give to worthy causes. Of course there were exceptions. A last minute provision to make donations to the Temple Completion Project in Jerusalem tax-exempt had been added to the AOEA to win the support of local king Herod.
But it being taxation, and the nobody actually having read the multi-hundred page document, loopholes were already being invented and discovered. One such case came from one of the far corners of the Empire where three private-practice astrologer/wise men had planned in-kind donations of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to a charity case in Bethlehem of Judea. Because of the timing of the passage of the AOEA at the end of the tax year and the logistics involved in delivering the gifts – field and fountain, moor and mountain – the donations would have been subject to the AOEA and is disincentives for charitable giving.
Following the advice the tax accountant each had used individually, the three astrologer/wise men formed a limited liability corporation as an umbrella for a group practice, We Three Kings, LLC. We Three Kings, LLC, was subject to the reduced corporate rate resulting in a substantial net gain in income for each of the three principals.
“I probably won’t itemize this year,” said one of the three, a Mr. Balthazar. “My tax savings under the AOEA are huge, though, and I will have more to give. I may be a little uncomfortable with all this talk of colluding with the Romans, but this is really going to make Persia great again,” he said.
Whether a little Drummer Boy could deduct the value of services rendered was not clear and the AOEA did not address issues of free speech and artistic expression.
As then, talk of taxes are in the air we breathe. And, yes, most experts believe the recently passed changes in the U.S. tax code are a net disincentive to charitable giving. But maybe the deductibility of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, should not be an issue for us. Maybe the incentive to give to LPC and the amazing things God is going through LPC should not be in its deductibility or not. Maybe we should give with glad and generous hearts, giving thanks to God for his gift to us.
Oh, and if you have any year-end gifts for LPC, they will be very well used. And, yes, in the 12/31 offering plate or postmarked by then if you need them to show on your 2017 giving record.
See you Sunday. 9.45, 4, 7, 9.30!