Sharpe Celebrates 50 Years - With a Look Back at the 1980s | Sharpe Group
Posted March 1st, 2013

Sharpe Celebrates 50 Years – With a Look Back at the 1980s

The ’80s were the decade of big hair, big shoulder pads (for women), Rubik’s cube, the Jamaican bobsled team, Game Boy and Pac-Man, the birth of music videos and MTV, the death of John Lennon and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As the Sharpe Group celebrates a half-century of providing consulting, training and creative services exclusively for America’s nonprofits, look back with us at the decades leading up to the present. See the February issue for 1970s milestones. Next month—the ’90s.

1981 – Robert F. Sharpe Jr. joined the firm as vice president and general manager. The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 reduced estate taxes, created the unlimited marital deduction and simplified requirements for charitable remainder trusts. The law also enabled 100 million Americans to establish IRAs.

1982 – The Tax Equity and Financial Responsibility Act of 1982 brought significant changes to the taxation of retirement benefits. Beginning in 1983, it would no longer be possible to exclude more than $100,000 of qualified plan assets from federal estate tax.

1983 – The Sharpe Group celebrated 20 years of service to nonprofit entities across the country. The Conference on Gift Annuities announced the largest single increase in recommended gift annuity rates in its 56-year history. Giving in 1983, according to the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, totaled $64.93 billion, more than in any previous year.

1984 – The Tax Reform Act of 1984 was enacted to aid in the discovery and correction of inflated value of properties claimed as charitable deductions. Barlow Mann joined Robert F. Sharpe & Co. as vice president for training and consulting.

1985 – Taxpayers who did not itemize deductions could deduct 50 percent of all gifts (up to half of AGI), a step up from 1984 when the most they could deduct was $75, or 25 percent of the first $300 given.

1986 – The Tax Reform Act of 1986 generally lowered tax rates, ending the special rate on capital gain property, which now would be taxed at the same rates as ordinary income. It also reduced tax on other income and introduced the Alternative Minimum Tax. Give & Take noted that the law would “revolutionize fund gathering activities.” The National Planned Giving Institute marked 20 years of comprehensive training; more than 7,500 registrants had participated.

1987 – Robert F. Sharpe Jr. suggested in Give & Take that the term gift planning might better describe the activity the company supported because the company’s philosophy was to put the gift before the plan. The National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG), now known as the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (PPP), was established with its primary goal to involve allied planning professionals and reduce abuses of planned gifts by those who were marketing gifts as tax shelter products and paying commissions to those who sold them.

1988 – The Sharpe Group recognized 25 years in business with an anniversary issue of Give & Take. During those years, four major tax reforms created giving plans and caused a re-examination of the charitable giving incentive in federal tax law. The March edition of Give & Take included an article by Robert F. Sharpe Jr. that featured the first succinct definition of a planned gift:

“A planned gift is any gift of any kind for any amount given for any purpose—operations, capital expansion, or endowment whether given currently or deferred, if the assistance of a professional staff person, qualified volunteer or the donor’s advisors is necessary to complete the gift. In addition, it includes any gift which is carefully considered by a donor in light of estate and financial plans.”

“The Future of Gift Planning” in September’s issue of Give & Take looked ahead to the year 2013.

The Technical Corrections Act of 1988 cleared up some confusion about how gift annuities should be treated for tax purposes, excepting them from the definition of commercial insurance.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy was founded.

1989 – The advanced technology of the late 1980s offered benefits for nonprofits of all sizes. As a Give & Take article stated, “A complete PC system capable of storing records on about 50,000 donors and their gifts can be purchased new for $2,000 or less. Compare this to the $15,000+ price tag of five years ago.”



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The publisher of Sharpe Insights is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Sharpe Insights may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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