One of the best things about being a financial advisor is working with amazingly generous people. Their generosity is displayed in many ways, from the giving of time, expertise, and money. Unfortunately, there are still many who are hesitant to give due to a lack of information about the charities themselves. If you are feeling generous this holiday season but uncertain about the gifting process, below are some tips to help you give with confidence.
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List Your Passions
A good first step in giving with confidence is creating a list of causes you are passionate about and then pairing those causes with organizations supporting them. Whether the causes are in health, education, environment, veterans/military, etc., what matters is whether it is something you want to put time, energy, and resources towards. Remember, if you are passionate about something, you are more likely to stay engaged and have a greater overall impact.
It is important to research the organizations on your list to ensure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck. Two websites I recommend helping in the research process are Charity Navigator and Give.org. Each website provides detailed information about charitable organizations, but in a slightly different format. Most people’s concerns revolve around how much charities spend on fundraising/administrative expenses vs. program expenses. Still, these sites offer a lot more information so you can prioritize different organizations based on your values.
Understand the Tax Benefits
The final step in giving with confidence is ensuring you understand the potential tax advantages of your gifting. With the increasing standard tax deduction over the past several years, and the elimination/reduction of many itemized deductions, more taxpayers now file taxes under the standard tax deduction. They must be creative with their giving to receive a tax benefit. If this is you, check out these recommendations below:
- Look to gift low-basis stock/bond positions instead of cash. At a minimum, this strategy will help you avoid capital gains taxes.
- Accelerate charitable giving by using Donor Advised Funds (DAF). For example, if you normally give $10,000/year to charity, look to give $50,000 to your DAF in one year. This strategy may allow your itemized deductions to now exceed your standard deduction and offer at least some tax benefit. While this requires a greater commitment to give, it is worth exploring.
- If 70.5 years of age, or older, look to make Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) from qualified accounts (IRAs, 401k, 403b, etc.). Individuals can contribute up to $100,000 per year and these contributions are exempted from your income for tax purposes and even count toward Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). For more information on this, check out our previous article on why you should consider sending your RMDs straight to charity.
*NOTE* See your accountant, or financial advisor, for more details and best options for your unique situation before executing any of the above strategies.
Marshall Clay CFP®, JD, is a Partner and Senior Advisor at The Welch Group, LLC, which specializes in providing Fee-Only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. Marshall is a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. In addition, Marshall is a frequent guest on local television stations as an expert on various financial planning matters.
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