Today Secretary Clinton announced new Treasury Department and IRS guidance aimed at lowering the legal barriers and administrative costs associated with cross-border philanthropy in support of civil society worldwide. The announcement coincided with a meeting of the State Department’s new Global Philanthropy Working Group, which brought together U.S. foundation leaders and government officials to discuss how they can work together to foster the growth and cultural acceptance of an independent civil society sector with a particular focus on emerging democracies and emerging economies. The scope and magnitude of global foundation giving and programming is expanding rapidly and strengthening civil society is integral to the success of these efforts.
The Treasury Department and IRS have issued proposed revisions to the tax regulations on “equivalency determinations,” the process by which a U.S. grantmaker evaluates whether an intended foreign grantee is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity. The reform announced by Secretary Clinton allows foundations to rely on a broader range of professional tax advisors when making these determinations. The Treasury Department expects that this will make professional tax advice in this area easier to obtain, will significantly reduce the administrative costs of foundation grantmaking to foreign civil society groups, and will also ensure that accurate determinations regarding foreign grantees are made.
The Global Philanthropy Working Group is the sixth and newest pillar of the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society – the State Department’s formal mechanism for involving civil society in the policy-making process. The Dialogue operates through working groups led by senior U.S. government officials and civil society representatives from around the world on topics including democracy and human rights, governance and accountability, labor, religion and foreign policy, and women’s empowerment. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine and Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston will co-chair the new Global Philanthropy Working Group.