In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, and 40 more of the wealthiest people in the world committed to giving away more than half of their wealth via a campaign called the “Giving Pledge.” The goal is to engage deeply in philanthropy and charitable causes to make the world better.
While these billionaires are in a class by themselves in terms of wealth, their pledge has inspired many others to consider their own philanthropic plans. For some, the idea is to leave a legacy. Others want to make an impact on scientific research or support the arts.
Whatever the aim, purposeful philanthropy requires a meaningful plan and a careful strategy to maximize tax benefits, especially in light of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. While the new tax law eliminated many of the deductions that taxpayers previously itemized (and raised the standard deduction), taxpayers who itemize still have an incentive to give to reduce their tax burden.
For example, if you donate cash and itemize deductions, the new tax law allows you to deduct up to 60 percent of your adjusted gross income, up from 50 percent before the new law went into effect.
What’s Your Goal?
The first thing to decide when considering philanthropy is how you want to make an impact. What issues or causes interest you and align with your family values? Do you want to support local, national, or international organizations? You will need to vet your choices to ensure that the organizations are legitimate and that they spend an appropriate and acceptable amount on their mission versus administrative costs.
Talk with your family—and your tax advisor—about your ideas and where you feel most inspired. This discussion will inform your philanthropic planning and determine which options to choose from a tax perspective.
Consider Your Options
One of the most popular giving vehicles is a donor-advised fund (DAF). Established at a public charity such as a community foundation, a DAF allows donors to make a charitable contribution, take an immediate deduction, and recommend grants from the fund to specific charities over time.
Another option is to bundle your giving. If you save up several years of giving and make a bigger donation in one year, you can maximize your tax deduction. This can be especially helpful in years you are incurring a particularly large tax bill due to an influx of income.
For business owners older than 70.5 years, you can transfer IRA distributions tax-free to charity every year—up to $100,000 from a traditional IRA each year. This would count as your required minimum contribution but not be added to your adjusted gross income. Alternatively, you can name a charity as the beneficiary of your IRA.
Talk to Your CPA
Given the complexity of the new tax law and its recent changes, be sure to discuss your philanthropy plan with your tax advisor.