You may donate money to charitable organizations throughout the year, for no other reason than your heart-felt desire to support causes that you care about. But if philanthropy is important to you, keep in mind that the associated tax breaks could potentially increase your ability to give. You might consider a more strategic approach to charitable giving, possibly as part of your year-end tax planning.
You can generally deduct charitable contributions, which reduces your taxable income, only if you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return. The deduction is currently limited to 60% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash contributions to public charities. Otherwise, limits of 50%, 30%, or 20% of AGI may apply, depending on the type of property you give and the type of organization to which you contribute. (Excess amounts can be carried over for up to five years.
If you claim a charitable deduction for a contribution of cash, a check, or other monetary gift, you should maintain a record such as a cancelled check, a bank statement, or a receipt or letter from the charity showing the name of the charitable organization and the date and amount of the contribution. Donations of $250 or more must be substantiated with a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity. Additional requirements apply to noncash contributions.
Here are some strategies that may help enhance your charitable impact as well as your tax savings.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act roughly doubled the standard deduction beginning in 2018 and indexed it annually for inflation through 2025 ($12,950 for single taxpayers and $25,900 for joint filers in 2022). The result was a dramatic reduction in the number of taxpayers who itemize, now only about one out of ten.1
If you find that the total of your itemized deductions for 2022 will be slightly below the level of the standard deduction, it could be worthwhile to combine or “bunch” 2022 and 2023 charitable contributions into one year, itemize on your 2022 tax return, and take the standard deduction on 2023 taxes.
Another option is to increase your charitable giving in years when you expect higher annual income. For example, charitable deductions could help offset the tax liability resulting from a business sale, capital gains, stock options, or a Roth IRA conversion.
Another way to bunch contributions or generate a large charitable deduction for the current year — possibly before you know where you want the money to go — is to open a charitable account called a donor-advised fund (DAF). Donors who itemize deductions on their federal income tax returns can write off DAF contributions in the year they are made, then gift funds later to the charities they want to support. DAF contributions are irrevocable, which means the donor gives the sponsor legal control while retaining advisory privileges with respect to the distribution of funds and the investment of assets. DAFs have fees and expenses that donors giving directly to a charity would not face. (Note: BFSG can assist you with opening a DAF.)
If you are an IRA owner who is 70½ or older, you can give to charity without itemizing and still get a tax break through a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). A QCD must be an otherwise taxable distribution from an IRA (generally, distributions from traditional IRAs are subject to federal income tax). QCDs are excluded from income and won’t affect your tax obligation. Moreover, once you reach age 72, a QCD can satisfy all or part of your required minimum distribution. To make a QCD, you would direct your IRA trustee to issue a check made out to a qualified public charity. You may contribute up to $100,000 from your IRA; if you’re married, your spouse may also contribute up to $100,000 from his or her IRA.
With a charitable remainder trust (CRT), you can donate money, securities, property, or other assets to the trust and designate a beneficiary — even yourself — to receive the income. Upon your death (or the death of your surviving spouse or designated beneficiary), the assets in the trust go to the charity.
Although the annual trust income is usually taxable, you may qualify for an income tax deduction based on the estimated present value of the remainder interest. Once assets are in the trust, the trustee may be able to sell them and reinvest the proceeds without incurring capital gains taxes.
Assets placed in a charitable lead trust (CLT) pay income to the designated charity until the trust ends (typically, upon your death). The remaining assets would then be returned to your heirs. This strategy might help reduce estate and gift taxes on appreciated assets that go to your heirs.
Both types of trusts are irrevocable, so assets cannot be removed from the trusts once they are donated. Not all charities are able to accept all possible gifts, so it would be prudent to check with your chosen organization in advance. Trusts incur upfront costs and often have ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of experienced estate planning, legal, and tax professionals before implementing trust strategies.
With so many nonprofit organizations seeking financial support, you may want to direct your money where it can do the most good. Here’s how you can help ensure that your donations are well spent.
Give directly to the charity.
Individuals who call on the phone or knock on your door are likely to be paid fundraisers, which can cut into the organization’s proceeds. Even worse, they could be questionable groups posing as more reputable and well-known charities. When contacted by fundraisers, never give out personal information over the phone or in response to an email you didn’t initiate. There’s no rush — take time to vet the charity before you donate.
Check out the charity’s track record.
There are several well-known “watchdogs” — such as CharityNavigator.org, GuideStar.org, and CharityWatch.org — that rate and review nonprofits. These organizations provide information that can help you evaluate charities and make wise choices. Find out how your gift might be used by looking into the charity’s mission, plans, and financial status. Charities with higher-than-normal administrative costs may not be spending enough on programs and services — or they could be in financial trouble.
Take advantage of “leverage” opportunities.
A wealthy benefactor or corporation may offer to match private donations to a charity during a certain window of time, and some employers have charitable giving programs that match funds donated by employees to qualifying organizations.
Prepared by Broadridge. Edited by BFSG. Copyright 2022.
Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s website or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy (including those undertaken or recommended by Company), will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s). Please see important disclosure information here.
By: Michael Allbee, CFP®, Senior Portfolio Manager
Did you miss out on #GivingTuesday? You still have time to take advantage of two temporary perks for cash gifts to charities before they expire at year-end.
The first perk for those that itemize deductions, allows 100% of cash gifts (including by check, credit card or debit card) to be deductible in 2021 (this also applied for 2020). Normally the limit is 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI). So, a person with $200,000 AGI, can now deduct up to $200,000 if charitable gifting is made in cash, where normally they would be capped at $120,000 (60% limit). These charitable contributions CANNOT be used for Donor Advised Funds or 509(a)(3) supporting organizations.
For those that already maxed out your charitable gifting (up to $100,000) from your traditional and/or inherited IRAs by using Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) and want to gift more to a charity, you may want to consider taking the remainder gift from your tax-deferred retirement account (if you are over age 59.5 to avoid penalties) which would increase your AGI since the distribution is treated as taxable income but simultaneously offset that income via the 100% deduction for the cash gift. This strategy would be especially effective if some of the IRA changes under consideration before Congress become law. Currently, in its Build Back Better legislation, Congress is proposing restrictions on so-called “mega IRAs” with balances over $10 million. The legislation would mandate required distributions of 50% of the amount exceeding $10 million and require distributions of 100% of the IRA balance exceeding $20 million—potentially creating major tax events for some individuals in the coming years.
The second expiring perk is the opportunity to deduct cash gifts to eligible charities of up to $300 for single tax-filers and $600 for couples against taxable income, even if you claim the standard deduction (great news for the 90% of households that take the standard deduction each year). Let’s say a married couple with an effective tax rate of 25% jointly donated $750 throughout the year. If they take the standard deduction, they’d be able to deduct the full $600, lowering their federal tax liability by $150. Keep in mind that donations made to individuals are not tax-deductible (i.e., GoFundMe campaigns).
Charitable giving provides you the opportunity to create a meaningful legacy and support the causes that are important to you. Consider speaking with your financial professional at BFSG for guidance around your philanthropic goals and assistance on the execution.
Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s website or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.
By: Arash Navi, CFP®, CPA, Controller & Wealth Manager
Our goal is to help our clients build and grow their wealth and tax planning plays an important role in this process. We recommend that you mark your calendar to review your finances in the first week of October, annually. Take this time to review your income for the year from employment, businesses, investments, or any other sources. This will help you project your tax liability ahead of time and allow your financial advisor or tax accountant to find strategies to reduce your tax burden. Implementing this consistently and reducing your tax burden annually will have a compounding impact over the years and increase your retirement nest egg. Here are a few tax planning strategies to keep in mind:
IRAs and Retirement Plans
Take full advantage of tax-advantaged retirement accounts. By contributing to Traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) plans, you can reduce your taxable income and lower your taxes. For 2021, you can contribute up to $19,500 to a 401(k) plan ($26,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and up to $6,000 to a traditional IRA ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older).
If you are in a lower tax bracket this year and expect your income tax rate to increase in the future, you may want to consider a Roth IRA conversion. You can convert all or part of your pre-tax retirement account into a Roth IRA and pay the taxes now at a lower rate. The funds in your Roth IRA will continue to grow tax free, and you will have more income flexibility in retirement.
If you are charitably inclined, you should plan your donations in advance to ensure you maximize the tax benefits. For those over age 70.5, you may want to consider Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), where you can transfer up to $100K from your IRA to a charity. This method not only reduces your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), but the distribution is also excluded from your taxable income.
Tax Bracket Management
The IRS uses a progressive tax system which means as your income grows, it is subject to a higher tax rate. Therefore, it is important to know in which of the seven federal tax brackets you will fall into. In your high-income years, you may want to reduce your tax liability by increasing your retirement contribution or utilize a tax-loss harvesting strategy. On the other hand, in low-income years, you may want to consider Roth IRA conversions, accelerate income recognition, or postpone deductible expenses.
Tax planning should be part of every individual investor’s financial and retirement plan. There are many strategies available for individuals and business owners, but it requires proper planning throughout the year. If you’d like to learn more about tax planning strategies unique to your personal circumstances, feel free to Talk With Us!
Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s web site or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.