Greek organizations lobby for tax breaks

Alumni contributions to improve greek housing are currently not tax-deductible.

Joy Petersen

Fraternity and sorority members head to alumni when looking for contributions to improve their houses, but large donations aren’t tax deductible – something sorority and fraternity organizations are trying to change.

Today, the North-American Interfraternity Conference and National Panhellenic Conference are lobbying at the nation’s Capitol for the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act and the College Fire Prevention Act.

The bills – which will likely be attached to another bill before being voted on – would allow large alumni donations for greek housing safety and structural improvements to be tax deductible for the donors.

Currently, greek houses don’t count as “charitable organizations,” as outlined in the 501(c)(3) code by the Internal Revenue Service, meaning donations are not tax deductible.

This is the fourth year that the bills have been proposed to the House and Senate but they have yet to be attached to another favorable bill and passed.

Nearly 80 students and 250 alumni from greek organizations nationwide will speak in about 300 committee meetings today.

Dr. Daniel Ahlberg, University associate professor of neurosurgery and Psi Chi Fraternity alumnus, will be participating in the event this year for the third time.

He said lobbying allows students to learn about the legislative process and broaden their experiences to be effective in the future.

The legislation benefits those utilizing greek housing now, not alumni, Ahlberg said, but donations won’t come in without a tax break.

“If the money weren’t exempted, (donors) wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Last year, the University’s Psi Chi chapter made $1.7 million in renovations, which was funded through small alumni donations and fund raising.

Though the bill won’t be decided on today, Connie Sandler, University Alpha Epsilon Phi alumna, said there is more support for the bill this year than in the past.

While hope is high that the bills will do well in Congress, Sandler said there’s no way of telling if the bill will pass this year.

“We’re close in the Senate, and it’s certainly doable to pass,” she said. “It’s a scary year being that it’s an election year. Anything could happen.”

By involving students in the process, Congress members can hear directly from those who the bill will help, she said.

“They care more about (students) than all of the past presidents or current presidents put together,” she said.

No University students are lobbying at the Capitol this year, but Emily Mitchell, Pi Beta Phi sorority member and political science junior, said she is lobbying from Minnesota by sending letters to Congress.

The national Pi Beta Phi Sorority recently added a new rule to its constitution that all of their houses must have sprinkler systems installed.

Mitchell said the University’s chapter just installed a system that cost just under $200,000, and raising the money would’ve been easier had they had more alumni support.

“It would have been a lot easier for us to raise the funds if we could take money directly from our alumni,” she said. “Also, it would be more of an incentive for our alumni if the money were tax deductible.”