Why we should stop slamming Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic …

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Promises to ‘Fight to Protect’ the Rights of Muslims: ‘I Want You to Know That You Are Always Welcome Here’.

In a post Wednesday evening, Zuckerberg recalled growing up Jewish as his parents instilled in him the desire to “stand up against attacks” on general communities.

I’m a good person and, in this season of giving, I find myself inclined – like all other good people – to donate a little money to those less fortunate.During the first week of his paternity leave, Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has posted pictures of his adorable newborn daughter Max laying beside him and his insanely adorable dog Beast dressed up to celebrate Hanukkah, all while responding to seemingly countless comments in his Facebook feed. He wrote that, in time, “attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone.” “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you,” Zuckerberg wrote. Most new parents would probably be happy getting 50 people to like their baby pictures, but the CEO has 43 million followers on the platform he created. According to a Bloomberg Politics poll on Wednesday, nearly two-thirds of likely Republican primary voters favor GOP presidential contender Donald Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country especially in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris.

While his daughter is clearly the focus of the new parents’ attention, the Zuckerberg family isn’t forgetting the other key figure in the household: Beast, a wild white-maned Hungarian Sheepdog. Zuckerberg bookended the announcement of his first child with action pictures of Beast — leaping in mid-air, splayed out like a majestic mop, and in a doggie-size yarmulke prepping for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Their actions have led to “hot takes,” on the announcement claiming it is either a “public relations coup” or Zuckerberg and Chan are not “paying their own taxes.” At a minimum, the tax statement seems patently untrue, and in all likelihood both statements are untrue. He’s posting many, many comments about (in no particular order): changing his baby’s diaper, explaining the meaning of Hanukah (“It’s the Festival of Lights for Jews and a holiday about hope,” Rabbi Zuckerberg explained) and offering pep talks — as well as posting at length and responding to skeptics in the comments to clarify his precedent-setting $45 billion donation. When asked by one surprised user if it was really him responding to all the comments, Zuckerberg said yes and suggested he finally had time to do so — as long as his daughter was asleep.

Priscilla Chan welcomed their baby Max into the world with a post on December 1, which included a lengthy announcement about their plans to donate 99% of their Facebook stock — then valued at about $45 billion — to efforts to improve the world. Rather than trying to duplicate the mission of the Salvation Army, we trust the entity to do the work of sorting out where our nickels, dimes and quarters are best put to use. America loves the concept of charities, but there are many problems with allowing charities to be tax-exempt and allowing tax deductions for donations. If you send a dollar to a cause and it’s not a well-known organization, chances are a good portion goes to the executive board, lawyers, helpers, staff, plane flights and God knows what else. I worked at a nonprofit once where people played games on their computers all day and watched movies, while ostensibly taking home large salaries for donation-funded and government-funded research.

There seems to be an assumption that the technique is somehow less authentic then the established system, the result being either self-promotion or a tax game. Jon Oliver, in an exposé on televangelism, showed how easy it is to claim a weekly comedy show should be a tax-exempt religious institution because the IRS does not audit churches. Citizens in countries that do provide more government services like France and Sweden (and also have much higher tax rates) are less likely to donate to charity. The dirty little secret about charitable planning for the wealthy is that they really only want to make the donation in a charitable vehicle if they are selling appreciated assets otherwise they would rather keep the asset. But I don’t think it will affect big names like the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or the Humane Society that do add a separate value from services the government can provide.

The advantage to that approach has led to a second spotty tax argument, made most recently in the New Yorker, that somehow the tax base shrinks because of either avoidance of capital gains if the stock were sold during life or estate tax at death. But after the status was terminated, the individual “may deduct that contribution from his or her income, but if the contributor is audited, he or she has the burden of establishing the church in fact meets the qualifications of a section 501(c)(3) organization… .” But, since the limited liability company will not have a tax exemption, there is a presumption that the contribution of the stock to the company will not qualify for an income tax deduction.

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