Prepare for the summer: policy updates on tax, NEA, and more

May 10, 2019

Applying for an NEA grant?

Grant applications for Art Works, Part 2 are due July 11. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) strongly recommends all applicants for this Art Works deadline register/renew their Grants.gov/SAM registration by at least June 19, 2019 and submit to Grants.gov by at least July 2, 2019. Remember to review the League's tips for preparing an FY20 NEA application. Also, music specialists Court Burns and Anya Nykyforiak will both be at the League Conference in Nashville next month and available to meet with League attendees in free 20-minute consultations to discuss an ongoing or prospective NEA-funded project. Appointments must be booked in advance and are filling quickly -- find available times here and send your top two choices to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Policy and appropriations round-up

Congress is taking action in the coming weeks and months on an array of topics that impact the capacity of orchestras to serve their communities. Take a look below for the latest news, and set a time to meet with your elected officials as they return to their home districts and states for spring and summer breaks.

  • NEA: With ongoing bipartisan support from Congress, the NEA is currently funded at $155 million. The League and other national arts organizations are requesting Congress allocate $167.5 million for fiscal year 2020, and the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus is supporting this increased allocation as well. Orchestra advocates are encouraged to urge their elected officials to support $167.5 million for the NEA. Neither subcommittee in the House or Senate has taken action yet.
  • Arts education: The Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education is currently funded at $29 million. Good news! Last week, the House Appropriations Committee released the draft FY20 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill, which recommends a $6 million increase for the Arts in Education program for a total of $35 million. Orchestra advocates are encouraged to urge their elected officials to support $40 million for Assistance for Education programs and to fully fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants in Title IV, Part A at the U.S. Department of Education, which support a well-rounded education.
  • Nonprofit tax policies:
    • Momentum is building to repeal the unprecedented new 21% tax on nonprofit employee transportation and parking benefits. At present there are four bills that seek to repeal the unrelated business income tax(UBIT) on transportation fringe benefits for tax-exempt organizations. Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced the LIFT for Charities Act, with Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY) as the leaders for the companion bill in the House. Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced bills that would repeal not only the transportation fringe benefit tax but also another provision that would require tax-exempt organizations to separately calculate UBIT for each trade or business within the organization. Orchestra advocates can take action on this issue here.
    • Nonprofits are reporting some declines in giving as fewer taxpayers itemize their tax returns. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) introduced a bill that would make a universal charitable deduction available to all taxpayers. Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) re-introduced a similar bill, which they had also offered in the previous session of Congress. Orchestra advocates can take action on this issue here.
    • Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has re-introduced the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which allows artists to deduct the fair market value of their work when they donate their literary, musical, artistic, or scholarly compositions to charitable collecting institutions. Orchestras advocates can ask Congress to strengthen tax fairness for artists and writers here.

Below: Scott Dodson, with the Richmond Symphony, speaks at a Capitol Hill briefing about the effects of the new nonprofit tax on commuting and parking benefits 

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Musical instruments on the agenda for treaty negotiations

Musical instruments in use by orchestras and musicians across the globe will be on the agenda for discussion when 182 countries gather to renegotiate the implementation of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Whether musicians are seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders, or to simply travel internationally for performances,CITES sets limitations on this activity and requires permits for instruments that have historically been made with small bits of material from natural resources that have now come under protected status, such as monitor lizards, sea turtles, and elephant ivory. The League will be participating in the negotiations, which were originally scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka this month but are currently postponed. In the meantime, the League's April 12 comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outline policy actions that can support conservation efforts while also preserving international cultural activity.