Three Steps to Successful End-of-Year Charitable Donations
The end of the year can provide wonderful opportunities to support organizations you are passionate about, and possibly decrease your tax liability.
To ensure your contributions are used in the most impactful ways, there are a few guidelines to follow as you select the organizations you want to donate to.
Donate to Responsible, Recognized Organizations
Whether it’s a large, national charity, or a deserving small organization closer to home, you should carefully investigate any group you are considering. There are many online resources, such as Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, and the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search that provide helpful information that can assist you in evaluating a charity’s performance, efficiency and effectiveness so you can make an informed decision that matches your values.
Some hallmarks of a reputable charitable organization include:
- Their name, address, and telephone number are easy to find
- They provide appropriate documentation of your donations
- They are willing to answer any questions you may have
While you are researching various organizations, be especially careful of names that are similar to well-known charities and be sure you are donating to the one you want. Especially at the end of the year, clever scammers will set up websites and phone banks with similar names to try to take advantage of your generosity.
Be sure you have complete, clear and usable documentation for all your donations, whether you donated cash, property or securities. If you are donating via paycheck withdrawal, a convenience offered by many employers, be sure to double-check your deductions on a regular basis and check in with the charity to be sure you get a receipt for your taxes.
Making the Most of Your Taxes
As you may know, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in 2017 has changed some of the benefits of charitable deductions. The primary affects include:
- The standard deduction has been roughly doubled
- There is a new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions
- Certain other deductions also have been eliminated, making it less advantageous for many people to itemize deductions
Please consult your tax professional to understand your specific situation.
Donating Securities, Cars and Household Goods
It is possible to increase your tax deduction by donating long-term appreciated securities. By donating the distribution directly to your selected charity, you don’t receive the distribution as income, thus reducing your tax burden. Again, be sure to consult your tax professional and get proper documentation from the recipient charity if you decide to go this route.
Many charitable organizations advertise that they accept cars. This can be a great way to pass on a vehicle that has little resale or trade-in value. You need to complete the donation before December 31 and itemize deductions to take advantage of deducting a donated vehicle. The IRS has a helpful publication, A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation.
There are special rules for various other types of donations – including partial interest in certain types of property, inventory from your business, patents or intellectual property, and – yes – even taxidermy items. A thorough discussion about charitable contributions of all kinds is found in Publication 526: Charitable Contributions from the IRS. (Be sure to check back in early 2019, when this publication will be updated for the 2018 tax year.)
Finally, remember that sometimes the most valuable thing you can donate is something you can’t deduct – your time. And that’s true any time of the year. Please don’t hesitate to contact the office at (267) 384-5300 if you would like to discuss charitable giving or other wealth planning strategies.