By Sarah Ruef-Lindquist, JD, CTFA
As year-end approaches, many of us think about the charitable organizations that we have supported and want to continue supporting through annual giving. The tax advantage of making charitable gifts has changed dramatically in the past several years, and some opportunities exist that may not after the end of this year.
In recent years, the increased amount of the standard deduction has made itemizing charitable deductions less tax efficient. Because individual taxpayers have a standard deduction of $12,550 and married joint filers $25,100, often the combined value of itemized deductions, including charitable gifts, does not exceed those amounts. However, even non-itemizers can take advantage of the $300 for individual or $600 for married joint filer charitable deduction opportunity for 2021. This is an extension of the CARES Act of 2020.
The CARES act provision allowing cash contributions of up to 100% of AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) is also available for charitable giving in 2021 for itemizers. Gifts exceeding that amount may be carried over to future tax returns for up to 5 additional years. The CARES incentives are not available for gifts to donor-advised funds, supporting organizations or private foundations. This provision could increase the tax efficiency of large cash gifts that would otherwise be limited in their deductibility to 60% of AGI before or after the CARES act is effective.
A taxpayer who itemizes age 59 ½ or older can make a distribution from any defined contribution plan (401(k), IRA, 403(b)) and deduct up to 100% of AGI in 2021 under the extended provision of the CARES act. This could present a unique opportunity for many wishing to make a large gift to charity and use their retirement funds to do so.
And there are perennial gifting strategies that have tax efficiencies. One of these would be using appreciated stock instead of cash to make charitable gifts. 2021 saw record high market values for the stock market. The capital gains that are imbedded in these assets means that the full current market value of the stock can be a charitable gift without any capital gains tax being paid. The charity gets to realize the full value of these assets, while the donor does not recognize any capital gain when using them for charitable gifts.
Another option for those age 70 ½ or older involves IRA’s. Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) of up to $100,000 per year from IRA’s are extremely tax efficient. Not only can the distribution cover what would otherwise be considered a Required Minimum Distribution for those age 72 or older, but they are distributed directly to charity from an IRA without any income tax payable. Usually, distributions from an IRA require payment of income tax (federal and state, if applicable), but not so with QCD’s. For those who are less reliant on these funds from year to year, this is a particularly attractive option that involves giving the specific instructions to your IRA advisor or administrator to make the distribution.
As you consider any charitable giving for 2021, be sure to seek the advice of a professional financial or tax advisor to understand fully how any charitable gift can impact your particular financial and estate plans.