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Mar 1, 2016

Timing Your Charitable Giving - Part II

In my last article, we talked about doubling up on your charitable donations in order to achieve a tax break.  In this article, I want to share a couple of other thoughts.

Many people make annual charitable gifts, and it’s usually at the end of the year.  Some of us associate giving with the Christmas holidays; some of us give at the end of the year in accordance with our tax planning.  But should we consider giving at the beginning of the year?

First of all, the charitable organization gets to use the funds early in the year.  Many organizations struggle to make the funds last the entire year.  I personally know of an organization where some of the employees even hold their paychecks until the year end donations come in.

The second reason to make your donations early in the year is to match your heart for giving.  None of us are promised tomorrow.  While none of us expect to die suddenly or become incapacitated, it does happen.  If you make your gift early in the year, you can have peace of mind that your wishes were carried out.

A third reason to make your donations early in the year is to get it out of your estate.  Since the estate tax exemptions continue to go up, this is more of a benefit to the wealthy, but it’s worth mentioning.

Now let’s talk about few of the rules regarding charitable giving. 

  • You can deduct contributions only if they are made to or for the use of a qualified recipient. Not all charitable organizations qualify, so make sure you know who you’re giving to.
  • Political contributions are not considered charitable (insert your own joke here) and are not deductible.
  • Contributions directly to needy individuals are not deductible.
  • Donations of property held for over one year are deductible at fair market value.  If the value is greater than what you gave for it, you aren’t taxed on the capital gain.
  • If you donate items such as clothing or furniture, make sure you get a receipt.  This deduction is only allowed if they are in good condition or better.
  • Make sure you get a receipt for all donations.  Back in 2007, the IRS started requiring written documentation to substantiate deductions or a written acknowledgement from the charity with certain required information.
  • No deduction is allowed for a separate donation of $250 or more unless you have a written confirmation from the charity.  A cancelled check is not enough.  The statement must have certain required information on it, and must be issued at or close to the time of the gift.  If you’re audited by the IRS and don’t have the receipt, they’re not likely to accept a receipt that is issued after the audit notice.

If you’d like to further discuss this article or have other questions regarding charitable giving, please feel free to contact any of our tax professionals at RPC.

Jack Kirkland, CPA
Clovis Office Partner-in-Charge