Are You Making the Most of Your Gift?

Donation

Are You Making the Most of Your Gift?

 Mark Weil, CFP®, Wealth Advisor

December 13, 2019

Do you give to charity? If so, do you write a check to your favorite organization? Would you be surprised to learn that might not be the best way to give? There may be a way where you could give the same, or even give more, to your favorite charities and have the same, or even less, coming out of your pocket.

There are many ways to help your favorite causes. You can volunteer your time, donate household items, food, clothing, and, of course, you can give financially.

In the wake of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA), how you used to give may not be the best way to donate today. Before the 2017 tax code changes, more people were able to itemize their charitable deductions on their tax returns. Writing a check to a charity was a very common tax deduction. Today, unless you can itemize, you may not receive any tax benefit if you write a check to your favorite charity. There is a popular tax strategy called bunching that may help you take advantage of your charitable contributions. Please see my colleague Jill Kaz’s piece on taking advantage of the current tax code to learn more.

According to Nonprofitsource.com, 30% of all donations are made in December1. As we have approached that time of year, we thought it would make sense to go over a few of the more popular options available when it comes to making financial contributions to your favorite charities. Each of the following strategies may be beneficial, depending on your specific situation.

Checkbook Philanthropy

Giving cash, using a credit card, or writing a check is both simple and extremely common. We have all done it, enough said.

Appreciated Assets

You can donate your appreciated securities, such as stocks or mutual funds, directly to a specific charity. By gifting appreciated long-term securities (those held for longer than one year), instead of selling the investment and using the proceeds, you avoid paying long-term capital gains tax and other taxes on the gain. This can be an effective and tax-efficient way to support a cause you care about.

As an example, if you wanted to donate $5,000 to your favorite charity, you could write a check, or you could gift shares of stock.  Let’s assume you bought $2,000 of ABC stock in 2017, and today those shares are worth $5,000. Since you held your ABC stock longer than a year, if you sold ABC today, you would owe long-term capital gains taxes on the gain, state income taxes, and possibly other taxes on your gain of $3,000.  If you donated the stock directly to the charity, you could avoid paying all of those taxes. You still get the charitable deduction if you itemize, but you’ll never pay tax on the gain.

Donor-Advised Fund (DAF)

A DAF is a simple and tax-efficient way to give. You can set up an account through a plan sponsor such as Fidelity, Schwab, Vanguard, religious organizations, or others. Once the fund is established, you can gift appreciated stock or mutual funds, cash, or other securities.  DAFs can even accommodate donations of stock in a privately held company, collectibles, and other assets.

When the fund sponsor receives the gift, they sell it and deposit the proceeds into your DAF account.  You then make what are known as grant recommendations to any qualified 501(c)3 charity, approved by the fund sponsor (most of your favorite charities are on sponsor’s lists, but please confirm before setting up your account with a particular sponsor). The plan sponsor then sends the desired gift to the chosen charity on behalf of your DAF.

A few other items to be aware of regarding Donor Advised Funds:

  • In return for gifting assets to a DAF, you receive an immediate tax deduction (if you itemize) for the full amount of your gift in the year it was made (subject to any tax limitations).
  • Be sure you gift the security, don’t sell it yourself, and move the proceeds to the fund. Otherwise, you will be taxed on the gain.
  • Similar to gifting appreciated assets, you can avoid paying long-term capital gains, and other associated taxes.
  • DAFs allow you to make gifts to charities you support over any time frame. The money does not have to be given to a charity in a specific year.  You can let the money grow within your DAF by choosing investment options offered by the DAF sponsor.
  • Finally, by giving to a DAF, it may allow you to simplify your recordkeeping come tax time. Instead of keeping track of each contribution to various charities, you only need to track the contribution to the DAF itself, since that is what generates the tax deduction.

Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD)

This may be a good option if you are 70½ or older. A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from your IRA to a qualified charity. The contribution (up to $100,000 per year) counts toward satisfying your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year. Contributing via a QCD, effectively allows you to benefit from the contribution without itemizing. Additionally, by giving through a QCD, the amount you contribute is not included in your taxable income. By lowering your taxable income, it may lower your Medicare premiums as well.

During the holiday season, people are more generous than at any other time of the year. Pairing your generosity with tax efficiencies can make your gift go farther. Now is the perfect time to determine which, if any, of these strategies are beneficial for you. Please feel free to reach out to us if you would like to discuss your unique circumstances.

1. Nonprofitsource.com

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