Year-End Checklist for Charitable Giving
Now that we are well into the fourth quarter of 2016, your clients are likely contemplating year-end charitable gifts in order to maximize their tax benefits. If charitable giving is not on their radar, this is an excellent time to begin that conversation. Not only do clients tend to be in the giving spirit around this time of year, but they also can significantly reduce their tax burden by making charitable contributions. Unlike gifts from Santa, however, tax benefits do not come without strings. Use this checklist to help clients avoid year-end giving pitfalls:
ENSURE GOOD RECORD-KEEPING AND SUBSTANTIATION
While charities are required to provide acknowledgments for every gift over $250 received, the ultimate burden is on the taxpayer to ensure that the acknowledgment has been received and contains the information required by the IRS. Here are a few common, and unique, donation circumstances to note:
Cash Gifts: A contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charitable organization is sufficient.
Property: Gifts worth more than $500 require substantiation and contemporaneous written acknowledgment.
• $500-$5,000: records must also provide the date and manner in which the property was acquired or created and its adjusted basis.
• Over $5,000: a qualified appraisal in compliance with Treasury Reg. 1.170A-13(c)(3) is required.
Quid Pro Quo: When a payment to a charity consists partly of a donation and partly in return for something of value, the amount of the taxpayer’s charitable donation is the amount of the payment less the amount attributable to the value received. Such contributions over $75 must be acknowledged in writing and include a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services provided to the donor.
BE AWARE OF TIMING
In order for the charitable gift to be deductible on the client’s 2016 tax return, it must be made on or before December 31.
• Gifts made by check are considered “made” as of the date of the postmark; it need not be cashed.
• Credit card transactions are considered “made” the day the transaction is complete, even if the credit card bill is not paid until January.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Consider donations of non-cash assets for year-end gifts, such as closely-held stock and appreciated securities, and avoid costly capital gains tax. For more on gifts of non-cash assets, read Gifts of Appreciated Business Interests.
VET YOUR CLIENTS’ CHARITIES.
Is the entity qualified? Charitable contributions must be made to qualified entities in order to be deductible. To determine whether a client’s charitable organization is considered an exempt organization, for which the client may take the charitable deduction, the IRS provides the Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool. Religious organizations and government agencies are eligible for tax-deductible donations, even if not in the IRS database.
Is the charity effective? Evaluating the effectiveness of charities that have received funds from your clients in the past, or those of interest to your clients, is a huge value-add opportunity, and something CICF is happy to assist with. Our Philanthropic Services staff provide their expertise on effective charities to CICF fund holders and have the inside track on not-for-profits that are making strides to improve our community in the areas in which your clients are passionate.
When working with your clients to plan their year-end charitable gifts, keep this checklist, and CICF, in mind. To learn more about how CICF can help your clients with their year-end charitable giving, contact Mary Stanley, Director of Gift Planning and Legal Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317.634.2423 x319 or Sarah Weaver, Senior Gift Planning Advisor, at email@example.com or 317.634.2423 x510.