Advisors – charitable strategies to help your clients

by Mary Stanley, J.D., CAP®
senior director & legal counsel of charitable gift planning

Throughout the year, we have featured ways that your clients likely can save substantial tax dollars through their charitable contributions. Donating appreciated property instead of cash is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to accomplish tax-smart gifts. And timing those contributions so that they are made in a year when their tax bracket will be higher and/or in a year when they will exceed the new, higher standard deduction and therefore be able to itemize their charitable contributions. As the giving spirit increases this time of year, we reiterate these simple strategies:


Believe it or not, this simple strategy is often overlooked in favor of cash. Although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) raised the deductibility percentage for gifts of cash to 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI), you may wish to remind your clients that charitable gifts of long-term appreciated property, such as publicly-traded stock held more than one year, provide double tax benefits for itemizers. First, the donor avoids capital gains tax on the appreciation in value of the donated stock over the donor’s basis. Second, the donor obtains a charitable income tax deduction for the full fair market value of the stock (up to 30% of donor’s AGI with a five-year carry-forward).


You also may wish to nudge your clients to consider both their tax rate for this year and future years—as well as whether their itemized deductions will exceed the TCJA’s increased standard deduction, before deciding when to make significant gifts to charity or additional contributions into their donor advised funds. If they do not already have one, perhaps they should consider establishing a donor advised fund to consolidate or “bunch” contributions into a single year in order to exceed the standard deduction and thereby secure a charitable income tax deduction for their donation. The donor can then recommend grants out from the donor advised fund during the years the donor will take the standard deduction.  Learn more about “bunching” here.


Requirements for Substantiation of Cash Contributions

No deduction is allowed for any monetary contribution unless the donor substantiates with:

  • a bank record (cancelled check, credit card statement, electronic fund transfer receipt); or
  • a written communication from donee organization showing name of donee, date of contribution, amount of contribution, and value of any benefit to donor. A blank pledge card provided by a donee organization does not provide adequate substantiation for a monetary contribution, but the written communication from the donee organization may be via email.

Any monetary contribution (or non-cash as detailed further below) of $250 or more also must be substantiated with a contemporaneous written acknowledgment of the contribution by the donee organization that includes:

  • the amount of cash and a description (but not value) of any property other than cash contributed; and
  • a statement of whether the donee organization provided any goods or services in consideration, in whole or in part, for any such cash or property; and
  • a description and good faith estimate of the value of any such goods or services or a statement that such goods or services consist solely of intangible religious benefits, if applicable.

Requirements for Substantiation of Non-Cash Contributions

In order to be deductible, all non-cash contributions must be substantiated as follows:

1. For non-cash contributions of less than $250
A receipt must be provided from the donee showing:

    • the name and address of the donee; and
    • the date of the contribution; and
    • a description (but not the value) of the property in sufficient detail under the circumstances; and
    • in the case of securities, the name of the issuer, the type of security, and whether the securities are publicly traded (collectively, “Receipt Contents”); or—in circumstances in which it is impractical to obtain a written receipt, donor may satisfy above requirements by maintaining a reliable written record that includes:
      • the Receipt Contents; and
      • the fair market value of the property on the date the contribution was made; and
      • the method used in determining the fair market value; and
      • if the contribution consists of clothing or a household item, the condition of the item.

2. For non-cash contributions between $250 and $500
No deduction is allowed without a contemporaneous written acknowledgment, as described in section Treas. Reg. 1.170A-13(f).

3. For non-cash contributions between $500 and $5,000
In addition to obtaining contemporaneous written acknowledgment from donee, donor must file completed IRS Form properly.

4. For non-cash contributions over $5,000
In addition to the foregoing, appraisal rules kick in, subject to certain exceptions, requiring donor to obtain a “qualified appraisal” from “qualified appraiser,” and complete IRS Form 8283 Sections A and B.

5. For non-cash contributions over $500,000
In addition to the above, the donor also must attach the qualified appraisal to the donor’s return for the taxable year in which the contribution is made (and each carryover year).


When it comes to year-end giving, the date on which charitable gifts are deemed to be made for tax purposes can be crucial to avoid your clients’ inadvertently making a charitable donation in January when they intended it to happen in December, or vice versa. Here is a quick review of popular last minute types of donations that lead to these questions:

A donation by check is complete for tax purposes when hand-delivered to someone authorized to accept the check as a donation or when the check is placed in US mail (the “mailbox rule”), assuming the check clears the donor’s bank in due course.

Credit Card
A donation by credit card is made as of the date the transaction is posted to the donor’s account as shown on the credit card statement, regardless of when the credit card statement is due to be paid.

Stock certificates accompanied with a stock power for publicly traded securities—same basic rule as checks. For publicly traded stock that is wired, the law is unclear whether the date the gift is complete is the date the stock is wired out of the donor’s account, or the date the stock lands in the donee’s account (in the event these dates are different). However, so long as the stock has left donor’s account, the gift should be considered to be complete.

Please do not hesitate to call us if we can assist you or your clients with year-end charitable giving or charitable gift planning anytime of the year. We are here to help!

Mary Stanley, J.D., CAP®
senior director & legal counsel of charitable gift planning
317.634.2423 x319

Sarah Weaver, J.D.
senior gift planning advisor
317.634.2423 x510

Brittany Rayburn
Hamilton County Community Foundation director of development
317.843.2479 x302

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