Give in These Uncertain Times? Absolutely!

Gulf Coast


Holiday creep. The ever-earlier commercial start to the year-end holiday season. This year seemed to set a new record when I ran a gauntlet of twinkling trees in the entrance to a home-improvement store more than a week before Halloween.

But at least one important year-end activity could actually benefit from an ever-earlier start: your charitable-gift planning. For a variety of reasons—mostly all good—many people wait until the 12th month (and sometimes even its 11th hour) to finalize their year-end donations. That can lead to rushed decisions amid the holiday bustle and missed opportunities when it comes to tax planning. Next year, think about the period between Halloween and Thanksgiving to focus on your charitable gifts within the context of your overall year-end planning.

Of course, this year the still-uncertain fate of pending tax-reform legislation might have left you even more unsure about when and how much to give. But it shouldn’t stop you. December 31 will be here soon, so let’s concentrate on what we do know.

There are some simple strategies to reduce your tax bill while benefiting causes you care about. And even if you don’t give primarily for the tax benefits, which many donors say they don’t, try looking at it from another angle: Maximizing the tax advantages of your generosity could help you give even more to charity. (As always, a conversation with your tax or financial advisor will lead to the best decisions for you personally.)

Consider giving appreciated assets, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, instead of cash. By donating long-held appreciated stock, for example, you can avoid capital-gains tax and may get a needed deduction for the stock’s full value. The hot market makes this a particularly good time to look at any appreciated assets you have.

If you need a tax deduction for this year, a gift into a donor advised fund can be a win-win for you and your favorite charities. Setting up one is an easy process. You make a single charitable gift to create (or add to) your fund, and you get the deduction this year for that gift. Then, you can recommend grants from your fund to the charities of your choosing, on your own timeline—right away or whenever you’re ready. 

Turning a required distribution from an IRA into a tax-free gift to charity is another option available to many older donors who qualify. Ask your financial or tax professional about the Charitable IRA Rollover, and remember that our Philanthropy team at Gulf Coast can help you with questions about charitable gifts, at year-end or year-round.

As I write this column on deadline, we still don’t know exactly what tax changes will take effect next year. But we can assume it is unlikely that tax rates will go up, and it’s possible that fewer deductions will be available in 2018. So giving generously to charity this year could benefit you, and it will certainly benefit the community causes you believe in. 

Dr. Mark S. Pritchett is president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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