There’s still time to make a lasting impact with your charitable donation

The end of each year is a notable time for making charitable donations because it’s the last opportunity to glean an income tax benefit before year’s end. That compels some to make last-minute decisions with their gifts. While many charities can benefit from a one-time gift, donating through a community foundation can extend the impact of a donation and meet year-end tax deadlines.

“These foundations are a means through which donors can ensure the gifts they’re giving and the associated tax benefits are advantageous to everyone involved,” says Margaret Medzie, vice president of development and donor engagement at Akron Community Foundation.

Smart Business spoke with Medzie about tips for year-end giving.

What options do donors have when it comes to giving?

Donations can be made directly to a charity, which is fairly easy to do — just pick an organization and write a check. But, with tax year-end closing in, time is of the essence. Some individuals have a complex gift to give, like appreciated stock, which isn’t always easy for nonprofits to turn around quickly.

Others may not be in a position to decide before year’s end which nonprofits to support with their gift. Community foundations can offer both types of donors an alternative.

What common misconceptions may lead to a less effective donation strategy?

One common misconception is that cash is always the best to donate. Appreciated securities actually equate to a larger dollar–for-dollar donation and enable the donor to avoid capital gains taxes. Community foundations can also accept other types of gifts, such as real estate, life insurance and annuities. Depending on how gifts are structured, the tax benefits can be more compounding than cash.

There’s also the false belief that donors need to pick a cause to support when they make the contribution in order to get a tax break. Through a community foundation, donors can donate as much as they wish now, then identify organizations to support over time. This is possible through what’s called a donor-advised fund, and it can be set up in as little as a day. With a donor-advised fund, donors get the impact of the gift on current year taxes and can spread donations to one or several organizations later. This is a great option to offset a taxable event when a donor can’t decide where to give.

How much work do donors need to put into managing charitable contributions made to a community foundation?

Fairly little work is needed by the donor when they start a charitable fund at a community foundation. Donors and their accountants need only track their contributions to the fund, and the community foundation does the rest of the work. They process the donation, vet charities to ensure they’re in good standing with the IRS, provide quarterly accounting, and send the grant checks to nonprofits both locally and across the U.S. — they wholly support donors’ grant-making objectives. They can also offer insight into local community needs, should the donor desire it.

What is important to consider before making a year-end charitable donation?

The first consideration is to determine how much to give and the most tax-beneficial asset to donate — cash, real estate, annuities, etc. That conversation is best had between the donor and his or her professional adviser. They can work with a community foundation to identify the best fund option for their giving style.

What is the timeline for making a year-end donation?

Most organizations are open on Dec. 31 so they can be available to accept last-minute cash donations. Those who wish to transfer securities or mutual funds before year’s end need to act sooner. Stock gifts to a community foundation should be initiated by Dec. 22 and can sometimes be processed in as little as a day, whereas mutual fund shares can take three to five days.

Call your broker directly and follow up to make sure he or she handles your request promptly. That way, you can be sure to get the contribution completed during this tax year.

Insights Philanthropy is brought to you by Akron Community Foundation

Donating appreciated securities offers more lasting benefits to you, charity

After several years of a bull investment market, appreciated securities are at their highest market value in recent times. With year-end giving season approaching, savvy investors are finding that now is the perfect time to leverage their long-term appreciated securities for making charitable gifts.

Securities can be much more tax-beneficial than donating cash and can be processed as quickly and easily if given to the right charity.

Smart Business spoke with Dale Koblenzer, a financial consultant at Merrill Lynch, to learn about options for charitable giving.

What is the investing climate like today?

Investment for stocks has not been better in 30 years. Investors are working in an environment with low interest rates, low inflation and strong corporate earnings.

Corporations in this country have never been stronger — they’re in the best position in decades. They’re highly productive, their workers are productive and their profit margins are high.

Why donate appreciated securities?

A gift of an appreciated security is very cost efficient. Also, by giving away noncash assets, donors won’t hurt their cash position. They’re giving away gains and avoiding the subsequent tax. Simply put, it costs little to give away and has a value that’s very high.

When it comes to big gifts of securities with substantial gains, donors can carry over the tax benefit up to five consecutive years. This often makes sense for executives who are compensated with stock. They can sell their older holdings to take advantage of greater gains.

It also makes sense for executives with personal investments. By donating stock, they can use their cash to reinvest in their business.

Who should consider this type of donation?

Individuals who have owned or purchased stocks that have achieved gains, those who own stocks that have gone through legacy change, or those who have received stocks after the sale or acquisition of a company — really anyone who has securities will have very high gains after a bull market and should consider donating stocks. Some company executives have concentrated holdings that tie up a high percentage of their net worth in securities. Gifting all or some of those holdings helps them do good for their community while diversifying their portfolio.

What options exist for donating stocks?

One option is to give directly to a favorite charity to gain an immediate tax benefit. However, not all charities can easily or readily accept appreciated securities. Recent financial regulations have made it harder for them to maintain contribution accounts with banks and brokerages, especially if they don’t have frequent transactions.

In lieu of donating to one specific charity, some choose to give shares to a community foundation. These organizations keep donors’ options open, allowing donors to make a gift to start their own charitable vehicle like a donor-advised fund, get a tax deduction for themselves now, and have time to allocate money to charities later. This can lead to a legacy of giving, something that involves the input of their families and children, and keeps their gifting options open.

Comparatively, a donation to a single charity is done once and it’s over. By donating to a community foundation, a donor can create a fund that pays out to multiple charities over many years.

Some people with significant wealth desire to own a charitable foundation. But the IRS casts a critical eye on those, meaning reporting can be difficult, expensive and time consuming. Donor-advised funds offer all the tax benefits of a charitable foundation without the heightened government scrutiny. They are relatively inexpensive, more flexible and simple, and confer a legacy onto the next generation.

Is now a good time to donate stock?

It’s always a good time to be philanthropic. But more specifically, valuations today are high in relation to where they’ve been. The wealth effect that’s been created during the past five years is significant. Further, tax laws are still beneficial for giving and creating charitable funds. There’s always a chance that could change in the future depending on the mood of the federal government.

Insights Philanthropy is brought to you by Akron Community Foundation

Charitable giving when selling your business offers benefits for everyone

Good business owners are known for their ability to capitalize on opportunity. This is especially true when they decide to sell their business. More and more, business owners are using what is likely their largest influx of income as the charitable opportunity of a lifetime.

“Business owners are faced with what to do after the sale and also how to cope with one of the biggest expenses in their lifetime, which is the income tax on gains from the sale,” says Thomas A. Kotick, CPA, CFP®, director at SS&G. “That gets a lot of people talking about what to do to minimize the impact of those taxes. It’s a good time for business owners to reflect.”

Smart Business spoke with Kotick about how charitable contributions can be used to reduce income tax burden and leave a legacy of goodwill in a business owner’s community.

Why do so many business owners include charity as part of their exit strategy?

The community in which a business operates is a big reason for its success, so charitable giving is most often a token of gratitude for the community’s support. As a financial strategy, making a charitable contribution as part of a sale event can significantly reduce the income tax burden.

Depending on how much the business is worth, selling a business could boost the owner’s net worth to a point at which he or she is subject to estate tax. Anyone with more than $5.34 million in assets is subject to a 40 percent estate tax. By giving away part of the income from a sale, the owner has less estate tax exposure.

What options do business owners have when donating their closely held shares?

One option is for an owner to donate a portion to charity. If a charity sells those shares, it isn’t required to pay income tax on the sale. When the donation is in this form, a decision regarding the amount needs to be made prior to the sale.

Business owners can also take the cash from the sale, pay tax on the income and give a portion to charity, which is tax deductible. A direct gift to a public charity gives a business owner a favorable tax benefit, but the decision on where the gifts go must be made that same calendar tax year.

Another option is to create a private foundation. The foundation can bear the family name and allow the delay of charitable decisions, but it can be a lot of work. This legal entity requires family management, the filing of tax returns and distribution of 5 percent of assets annually. In addition to a smaller tax break on contributions, private foundations also pay an excise tax. It is one option for carrying on a person’s legacy, but it requires a willingness to manage and file tax returns.

Are there any less complicated options?

You can create a donor-advised fund by giving an irrevocable gift to an administrating public charity. The donor earns the same tax deduction as a direct gift — the most favorable allowed by the IRS — and can later recommend charitable distributions from it. That fund can bear the family name, but the family doesn’t have to manage it. Instead, the administering organization processes all gifts into the fund and invests them. The business owner then advises on where distributions go. There is no excise tax on earnings and no 5 percent distribution requirement. It’s also possible to take time before deciding where to send the money, which allows time for the money to grow, giving the donor’s charities more dollars in the end.

Donor-advised funds are also a better choice for those who want to remain quiet in their giving. Since the assets are held by an administering organization, the distributions made from donor-advised funds can be kept anonymous, both publicly and to the nonprofits they support, if preferred.

What types of organizations administer donor-advised funds?

Commercial entities are great if someone wants little personal contact and doesn’t mind their money residing in New York or Chicago. Community foundations are a better option for keeping charitable assets local while still having the option of supporting charities anywhere in the U.S. Fees are low and starting a fund is a quick, efficient process that can take as little as a day.

Insights Philanthropy is brought to you by Akron Community Foundation