Tax Breaks for Charitable Giving

July 8th, 2019

You probably know that you can get an income tax deduction for a gift to a charity if you itemize your deductions. But there is a lot more to charitable giving. For example, you may be able to indirectly benefit a family member and a charity at the same time and still get a tax break. Or you may be able give appreciated property to a charity without being taxed on the appreciation. These benefits can be achieved, though, only if you meet various requirements including substantiation requirements, percentage limitations and other restrictions. We would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to some of these requirements and tax saving techniques.

First, let’s take a look at the basics: Your charitable contributions can help minimize your tax bill only if you itemize your deductions. Once you do, the amount of your savings varies depending on your tax bracket and will be greater for contributions that are also deductible for state and local income tax purposes.

Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the percentage limitation on the charitable deduction contribution base is increased from 50 percent to 60 percent of an individual’s adjusted gross income for cash donations to public charities in 2018 through 2025. In addition, the phase-out of allowable itemized deductions is repealed for tax years 2018 through 2025. However, tax reform also includes a provision that a charitable contribution deduction is not allowed for any contribution made after December 31, 2017, to a college or university in exchange for the right to purchase tickets or seating at athletic events.

Your donations must be substantiated. Generally, a bank record or written communication from the charity indicating its name, the date of the contribution and the amount of the contribution is adequate. If these records are not kept for each donation made, no deduction is allowed. Remember, these rules apply no matter how small the donation. However, there are stricter requirements for donations of $250 or more and for donations of cars, trucks, boats, and aircraft. Additionally, appraisals are required for large gifts of property other than cash. Finally, donations of clothing and household gifts must be in good used condition or better to be deductible.

There are other special charitable giving techniques beyond the usual gifts of cash. These include, among others, a bargain sale to a charity, charitable gift annuity, donor advised funds and gifts to private foundations.

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