Fiscal cliff talks threaten Central Fla. charities

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CENTRAL FLORIDA —

Central Florida charities, churches and nonprofits could lose millions of dollars if lawmakers in Congress change the charitable tax deduction.

Lawmakers have discussed doing away with or limiting the deduction as they work to reach on deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Each day 400 families visit the Community Food and Outreach Center to get groceries, clothing and counseling.

The center is funded solely through donations.

"We're the last place you'd want to remove money from in these tough economic times," said Andrae Bailey of the Community Food and Outreach Center.

If someone in the top income bracket gives $1,000 to charity the government forgives $300 in taxes. That means for each dollar the government forgives, community nonprofits get $3.

"A dollar you take from nonprofits and charities is a dollar that's lost exponentially here in Central Florida," Bailey said.

"We think there could be a huge problem in charitable giving at some levels if the deduction is capped, which is what Congress is talking about," said Mark Brewer of Community Foundation of Central Florida.

Brewer said if the government takes away from organizations that serve the poor, the public sector would simply have more people to care for.

The arts and higher education could also lose millions of dollars if the charitable tax deduction is limited.