Posted by: danielrashke | November 21, 2017

The Greater Give

Give BackOur philanthropy philosophy at TASC is now as it has always been: if more individuals increase giving—even by small amounts—a significant difference can be realized in our communities. Yet the current charitable income tax deduction falls far short of the ideal, and the number of individuals contributing to charities has steadily decreased over the past 35 years. Have Americans become less generous during the past half-century? Have we made it more difficult for Americans to support charities? Can we pinpoint impediments to individual giving? If so, what can we do to get these barriers out of the way?

TASC, with The Greater Give, is proposing a solution to make it easier and less expensive for Americans to support the charities of their choice. By streamlining the gifting process, our plan spurs employees and employers alike to “lean-in.” It simplifies record-keeping, because it uses an existing architecture (i.e. pre-tax payroll deductions for accounts such as dependent-care, transit/parking, etc.). Employers can be confident of their compliance, and more middle-class Americans can become everyday philanthropists.

So what are we talking about? We are proposing the creation of the Flexible Giving Account (FGA), an employee fringe benefit account that’s funded with pre-tax payroll deductions and managed by the gifting employees, who direct grants from their accounts to the charities of their choice. You might ask, “Aren’t charitable donations already tax-deductible?” The answer is “no” and “yes,” because these contributions are deductible only for some taxpayers: those who itemize their deductions. According to a study by the Tax Foundation,* of returns with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) below $50,000, fewer than 20 percent itemized. Relegating the deduction to such a small segment of our population—to those who itemize only—is no favor to would-be givers or charities across our nation.

It’s important to clarify that establishing this pre-tax deduction is not intended to change charitable giving’s current tax status. In fact, this change will complement the current system by adding a pre-tax deduction as a new way to realize the tax advantages of charitable giving. (Similar to Section 129 creating the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account to complement the Dependent Care Tax Credit.)

So you’re thinking, “Hey that sounds great! What now?” The answer is simple yet challenging at the same time. It involves legislative change. To implement creation of an FGA, Congress must amend the regulations governing fringe benefit plans. But the actual change is relatively straightforward. Congress simply needs to add a Flexible Giving Account to the existing list of qualified fringe benefits. That’s it! Easy, right? Then again, considering the current situation in Washington, it seems nothing is easy these days…

Who does this affect? Employees. Employers. Non-profits. Communities. I can think of very few who wouldn’t be impacted by providing charitable tax incentives to significant numbers of non-itemizing taxpayers. And because many non-itemizers have relatively lower incomes and hence pay less tax, donations—subsidized by tax rules—will have tax costs below the revenue loss from taxpayers in higher brackets.

Obviously, the largest impact of the Greater Give would be appreciated by our nation’s charities. With a more predictable income stream, they’ll be able to plan better and do more. Boosting individual giving—at any amount—will foster positive change for people, companies, and society.

So you see, there are no losers in the Greater Give, only winners.

*Source: (Tax Foundation – Most Americans Don’t Itemize on Their Tax Returns – July 23, 2007)

Posted by: danielrashke | October 25, 2017

Cybersecurity: It’s Everyone’s Concern

I cannot overly stress the importance of protecting your online information, especially considering all that has been in the news lately—from Russia hacking election sites to the Equifax cybersecurity incident. TASC is serious about meeting the challenge, and recently hosted a cybersecurity forum in Washington, DC. The discussion emphasized two main points: the convergence of cybersecurity and privacy, and how to respond when attacks happen.

Both elements must be approached together, and all businesses must take this risk seriously. It’s absolutely mandatory that you create a crisis management plan. You need a plan that’s intact, one that’s reviewed, updated, and put into real-life practice regularly. And because it’s a plan, you must work hard to develop components before you face a situation. Have it ready, on the shelf, and tested; it will save you valuable time and effort in the long-run. And it might save your business as well!

At TASC, this all ties back to our strategy. When it comes to security and privacy, what’s the number one concern that comes to me? Naturally, it’s the physical and mental well-being of people in our care. What follows are our customers’ funds and data, followed by TASC’s funds and data (our trade secrets).

TASC sponsored this forum because we wanted to share advice that we’ve acquired from the experts themselves. One best practice, as stated by Jason Maloni, a seasoned crisis communications professional, is to ask yourself “Is this something we really need?”

At TASC, we constantly ask ourselves that question when touching any level of data. Whether it is internal data, customer data, or interaction with vendors…  Is the information/data in our possession absolutely necessary to complete the objective? If we have anything beyond that, it is too much. So we work hard to grab what we need and nothing more, to capture the necessary information only. Beyond that, we must ask “What level of privacy/security does it need?”

Like TASC, you should wrap that captured, single element of private data that you have with every effort you can to make it secure. Then, you must put yourself in the very best possible position, ready for when a breach threatens. They come in many shapes and forms, and not all breaches involve damaging your infrastructure. It can be as simple as a phishing email designed to collect contact information, or as complex as ransomware that takes your whole system hostage and won’t let it go until you pay. So be on the offense, be prepared with your security, and have your plan ready to go.

Fortunately, we are far down the cybersecurity road here at TASC. We are in a good place. It all comes down to three things: privacy, security, response. I advise that you count on experienced, professional assistance to achieve the level of the crisis management that you need. This should consist of legal representation, reputation management (strategic advice), and cybersecurity (technical security).

As the police sergeant on the 1980s Hill Street Blues television program used to say: Let’s be safe out there!

Posted by: danielrashke | September 20, 2017

Visit from Representative Mark Pocan

US Rep PocanRecently, TASC President Cliff Mason and I had the pleasure of hosting U.S. Representative Mark Pocan at TASC’s headquarters. While we touched on any number of topics during our conversation, we kept coming back to one central theme: philanthropy.

During the first part of the meeting we brought Representative Pocan up to speed about our Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), our ongoing development and upgrade of the workplace giving program. To date, more than 13,000 charities are enrolled and ready to go on the new system. In addition, we are just about ready to start rolling this out to 6+ million federal employees and retirees.

We then discussed how working with the country’s largest employer (the Federal Government) has ramped-up TASC’s need for additional employees and office space in the International Lane area. Rep. Pocan pledged his support in any way he could, stating “We need to keep TASC and its jobs here in Madison.”

The conversation then moved to a new initiative of which I am very proud. Something that I think will make the world a better place: The Greater Give. This innovation will truly maximize employer and employee philanthropy, because it will open the door to charitable giving that’s tax exempt to the giver.

The benefits of workplace giving are already making a difference for individuals and the community. And The Greater Give will multiply those benefits even further. Here’s how it would work. By changing one sentence in the Internal Revenue Code, workplace giving would be treated much like the transportation benefit. In other words, with this change employees could set aside pretax funds to donate to the charities of their choice.

Personal, tax-exempt charity savings accounts will encourage regular, predictable giving. With each paycheck, employees will have a unique opportunity to save—for the purpose of supporting their community. Automating savings into a separate account gives visibility and options. And it simplifies charitable giving.

People feel good giving. Giving in the workplace attracts and retains talent and strengthens teams by promoting inclusivity. This innovation will boost corporate citizenship, individual wellness, and recognition. It will boost community charities’ bottom lines and enable employers and charities to leverage projected gifts to maximum effect.

For his part, Rep. Pocan was interested in TASC’s initiative, but was realistic about getting it done. “I am not seeing a lot getting done right now, but there is some room for tax reforms,” he stated. “We can’t do the big things, so we may opt for doing some smaller things.”

The Greater Give is one small thing that could have a huge impact.

Posted by: danielrashke | September 1, 2017

TASC Responds to Harvey

TASC_Cares_Logo“TASC responds. Make no mistake. TASC does not react. TASC responds. Fortunately for you, our customers and myself, TASC and its employees understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves. We are all …

… part of a family.

… part of an organization.

… part of a local, state, and national community.

We are all part of something bigger. I have seen it, I have heard it, and I have felt it.  Will you react or will you respond? ”

Sixteen years ago, I wrote those words in the On TASC magazine in response to 9/11. And the same holds true today as we work to help those suffering through Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

With a decentralized workforce, TASC has relationships of many kinds in every state in the union. So, one of our first duties is to determine where our people are, and are they ok? Then, TASC will reach out to all of our customers impacted to see what we can do to assist them. TASC will support those affected by catastrophic events like this by helping to clear obstacles – including getting payments through the system efficiently. One way we can provide peace of mind is to ensure uninterrupted service regardless if it is a situation that effects the nation, one part of the nation, or a disaster that effects TASC only.

TASC’s clients and participants in the affected areas continue to have access to their plan accounts and funds. Those with the TASC Card can still pay for eligible benefits quickly and easily. TASC Card holders should check their MyCash accounts for any available funds that can be used for supplies, food, water, and whatever is needed.

We are setting up financial support for the Red Cross via our GiveBack service, where TASC will match up to $20k through an employee match program to help those in Texas.

And we are here to help. TASC can be contacted in many ways. We can be reached by phone, mail, email, and the web. TASC will be here.

Posted by: danielrashke | August 2, 2017

Not Getting it Done

us-capitol-buildingTASC’s May 4, 2017 Capital Connection blog addressed Republican attempts to repeal and replace portions of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) with the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). As our Legislative Analyst Director Jason Westphal wrote in that post, that legislation was a long way from becoming law. His words are just as true now as they were in May. (www.tasccapitalconnection.com)

Now that the latest attempt to repeal PPACA failed to pass in the Senate, I hope all sides of the aisle—left, right, and independent—can come together to facilitate some stability in our nation’s complex healthcare system. If the left pulls hard to the left and the right pulls hard to the right, our struggle with healthcare is bound to continue.

Yes, the PPACA of 2010 has insured more people than ever before, but its costs are an issue. No question about that. What’s the best thing for healthcare reform right now? I think the answer is first to stabilize the market, and then to have diverse minds come together to address areas that need improvements or tweaks. And we need to shut down the rhetoric, which is confusing and creates more instability for individuals, employers, and insurance carriers.

Will healthcare reform happen under this President? I doubt it. Instead, I see the subject of healthcare reform again in the forefront at the next turnover of the Presidency, the House, or the Senate.  Meanwhile, I know a big concern for everyone is the rising cost of healthcare. This is far from a new concern. In all my years in the employee benefits industry I have never seen the cost of healthcare go down. I think the best we can realistically hope for is to slow the increases. And of course there are other important objectives, like the safety, security, and support of some of our communities.

It would be a sad state of affairs, regardless of which political party controls the government, to move millions of people off of health insurance. I don’t see how that helps us get anywhere. We either subsidize the cost of insurance or subsidize the cost of hospital visits, because by law no one may be denied care at the hospital.

Lately our political environment hasn’t been inclusive to getting much done. And that’s with control of all three houses held by one party. Hopefully—with or without a control shift after the 2018 mid-term elections—our legislators will find a way to work together to make some progress.

I invite you to watch for future blogs. I plan to discuss evolving healthcare reform proposals and their effect on our industry, along with reforms that TASC would like to see become law.

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