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Estate tax end cuts into charity funding

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A decision by Congress to let the estate tax expire has taken an incentive away from America's very rich to include charities in their wills, authorities say.

The federal inheritance tax, which many Republicans call the "death tax," expired Dec. 31 while Congress was busy with healthcare reform. One result, experts say, could be a legal domino effect curtailing charitable contributions long depended upon by foundations, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said Sunday.

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"I can tell you I'm pretty sure (the impact) is not going to be good, because when people don't know, they don't do anything," Jack Miller, director of gift planning for Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said.

Giving USA and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University report numbers concerning charitable giving for 2009 are not yet available, but gifts to non-profits dropped nationwide 2 percent from $314.1 billion in 2007 to $307.7 billion in 2008.

The Tribune-Review says observers expect Congress to pass another estate tax this year with the "x-factor" being whether it will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010. There is a question whether a retroactive tax would be constitutional, the report said.

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