The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has become a catalyst for taxpayers to revisit their charitable giving strategies. Under the new law, many taxpayers will no longer be able to itemize deductions on a regular basis due to the following changes:

  • The standard deduction has been increased from $12,700 to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly ($26,600 if both spouses are age 65 or older) and from $6,350 to $12,000 for a single taxpayer.
  • The deduction for state income taxes and real estate taxes has been capped at $10,000 in aggregate.
  • The deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions has been eliminated.

In sum, if the total of your itemized deductions does not exceed the new, higher standard deduction, you will receive no tax benefit for charitable contributions. This represents a significant change for many CCM clients. In light of this change, our Tax Team is recommending consideration of two available strategies:

Qualified Charitable Distributions
If you are age 70.5 or older (i.e. subject to required minimum distribution rules), you can make charitable contributions directly from your IRA account. The IRA custodian will write the check directly to your desired charity and you can deliver the check. The tax benefit of a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) is that it is not included in your itemized deductions. Instead, it is excluded from your gross income. The bottom line is that you do not need to itemize deductions in order to receive a tax benefit for making a charitable contribution. QCDs can also be used to fulfill the required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA accounts, however, it is important to note that you are not limited by that.

Each taxpayer may complete a QCD of up to $100,000 ($200,000 total for married couple) each year even if it exceeds your RMD.

Donor Advised Funds
A donor advised fund is an effective tool in implementing what is known as a “stacking of deductions” strategy where you would plan to itemize deductions in one tax year and then utilize the standard deduction in the subsequent year(s). The mechanics of a donor advised fund are that you make a contribution of cash or appreciated securities into the fund, and then make/nominate grants out of the fund to your designated charitable organizations. The tax benefit is that you receive a deduction in the year that a contribution is made to the fund because the organization holding the donor advised fund qualifies as a charitable organization. Therefore, you do not receive a tax deduction in the year(s) when grants are made out of the fund.

A stacking strategy involves making a single contribution to the fund (all at one time) that will cover several years of your planned charitable giving. Depending on the size of that contribution, you would then be able to utilize itemized deductions in that tax year, and utilize the standard deduction in the following year(s) when you are making grants out of the fund. Making contributions of appreciated securities is the preferred funding method, because you are also able to receive a second tax benefit by permanently avoiding the capital gains tax on the appreciation. Note that unfortunately, tax law specifically prohibits a QCD from being contributed to a donor advised fund.

We have worked through both of these strategies with many of our clients. Please contact us if you have questions on how to implement one of these strategies, or connect with your advisor at CCM if you would like to discuss how to address charitable giving within your overall financial plan.

NOTE: The information provided in this article is intended for clients of Carlson Capital Management. We recommend that individuals consult with a professional adviser familiar with their particular situation for advice concerning specific investment, accounting, tax, and legal matters before taking any action.