Join John Bever and Jim Uren in this episode of "The Year You Retire" podcast as they tackle the topic of Getting the Most Out of Your Charitable Giving. Enjoy their friendly and approachable style, as you discover strategies like bunching charitable contributions and using donor advised funds, with real-life examples. Get inspired, informed, and uplifted with valuable insights on optimizing your charitable contributions for maximum tax benefits.
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Learn why claiming the standard deduction may eliminate the tax advantage of your charitable giving.
- Uncover the potential advantages of bunching charitable giving to increase your itemized deductions.
- Discover how donor advised funds work and how they may help you reduce your tax bill.
- Explore how donor advised funds may help eliminate capital gains taxes on appreciated assets.
00:00:42 - Introduction to Charitable Giving and Tax Benefits
00:01:14 - Understanding Donor Advised Funds
00:03:36 - Benefits of Giving and Tax Considerations
00:05:18 - Financial Strategies for Charitable Giving
00:10:47 - Bunching Deductions for Tax Optimization
00:13:29 - Bunching Charitable Giving
00:15:55 - Donor Advised Fund
00:17:41 - Maximizing Tax Benefits
00:21:28 - Using Donor Advised Fund for Large Gains
00:25:48 - Legacy and Succession Planning
00:26:51 - Charitable Giving and Passing on Traditions
00:27:14 - Gratitudes
00:28:42 - Important Disclosures
Jim Uren: This is The Year You Retire podcast for people who want their first year of retirement to be right on the money. Your hosts are me, Jim Uren and John Bever, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals with Phase 3 Advisory Services. Retirement is one of the happiest times of life, but getting the most out of it requires you to be properly prepared.
Listen along as we explore the financial topics, tips, and strategies that will help you make your first year of retirement your best year yet. Now let's get planning.
This podcast is titled, “Getting the Most From Your Charitable Giving: Using a Donor Advised Fund and Other Charitable Tax Tools.” In this podcast episode, we will be discussing ways to exercise financial generosity while making sure that you're also maximizing your tax benefits whenever possible.
John Bever: So we will cover some of the benefits of giving. Different ways to give financial gifts. Tax issues, including how to benefit from itemizing deductions, and how a donor advised fund works.
Now a donor advised fund is a 501(c)(3) charity you contribute to, receiving the tax deduction when you donate. But then granting the money to your charities over time, even decades. It's kind of like a family, simple family foundation. So before we cover the details of a donor advised fund, let's start with why even give to charity?
You know, our country, Jim, was founded on the principle of giving. Philanthropy in the U.S. goes back to the first settlers and the Puritans. And our earliest colleges were dedicated to philanthropy and helping others. So here's a quiz for the audience. What is the oldest college in the U.S.? Any ideas, Jim?
Jim Uren: Well, that’s a good question. You know, I'm guessing Harvard or Yale, but I don't know.
John Bever: Yeah, you got it. It's Harvard. So that's a kind of interesting, 1636. In fact, it was the first corporation also in the U.S. The American tradition of giving is evidenced even as early as 1630. So there was a Puritan, I guess he was a pastor, John Winthrop. And his sermon titled, “A Model on Christian Charity,” promoted the idea that people coming to this new world would be an example of caring for the less fortunate. Fulfilling what he called in the sermon, “great responsibilities.”
And he gave that sermon actually on the boat before they landed. So somewhere on the voyage and it's pretty well known. But anyways, back then there was no provision for the government to hand out money and the care of others was the responsibility of the community, obviously not the government.
And this made giving actually very personal if you think about it, right? I mean, everybody knew everybody. You knew who you were helping. So when we adopt that attitude that the government is there to help others we actually forfeit some of the personal benefits of giving. Of course, Benjamin Franklin is a very well-known philanthropist and has many sayings and maxims about that.
So yeah, there are benefits of giving that are a lot more than financial. And certainly there's the tax write off that we all like to get if we can. We'll be talking about that, but there's also, that's just that satisfaction of giving. You know, we've all heard the phrase, “Give and it will be given to you.” And also, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Well, those are attributed to Jesus. And he said those things 2000 years ago. And they're just as true today as they were back then.
And, we're all familiar with the principle of paying it forward. And you pay forward, eventually something actually usually does come back. Usually what you're doing is you got some type of charity, or something nice, or someone did something for you or helped you, you pay that forward then eventually it still comes back.
3000 years ago, King Solomon said, “Cast your bread on the water and you will find it after many days.” Now, while he was actually, I think, referencing, investing, that seems to be the common thought, paying it forward is an investment in people and it has the same benefits. You invest, you reap more. You pay it forward, you reap more. You give, you reap more.
There's another benefit and that is getting stuff off the table, simplifying. So clearing out the house, getting rid of an account. Those things can lead to simplification, which is something that we're often looking for in that year that we retire.
And giving also creates connectedness. And Jim knows about this. It promotes relationships. It promotes joy, internal joy. So one of the longest running studies out there is on happiness and it goes back to 1938, started by Harvard, still going today, as I understand it. In their 2017 update, it's titled, “Genes are Nice, Joy is Better. And it really focuses in on this connectedness idea.
Jim Uren: And if you want to learn more about some of this research on retirement happiness, you can see our previous episode, episode six, where we talk about what some of the research has shown leads to a better, more happy retirement. Some things are under our control, some things not necessarily, but I think you'll find that episode also very helpful.
John Bever: So let's review some different ways of, financial ways of giving. So, you can give while you're living. You can also do delayed giving from your estate. You can give money, investments, property, belongings, even vehicles, but there are some special rules that do apply. So if you're going to do vehicles, you need to make sure you're aware of those rules, check with your advisor.
A lot of different strategies. So here's one, if you're over age 70 ½, you can use your IRA and other pre-tax retirement accounts to make a QCD. It's what we call it in the industry. QCD for Qualified Charitable Distribution. That's a very interesting way of giving, we're not going to go into the details of that other than to say you have to be 70 ½. And the big deal on that is that it goes directly to charity. So it doesn't even show up on the tax return as income and then taking the deduction.
The Secure Act accelerated the time you have to empty an IRA you receive as an inheritance. So this is another idea here. We used to be able to stretch those IRAs that we received as an inheritance, stretch those over our lifetime. Not anymore. It has to be emptied within 10 years. Although I will say this, 2020, 2021, 2022. And 2023, the IRS has said, “Oops, I don't think we clarified this really well, so if you did that RMD, well, that's great. You can send it back if you want to...” I don't know what the deal is, but anyways, it's still 10 years. It has to be emptied by the 10th.
Jim Uren: Yeah, it's still a mess. We're still waiting for some clarification on some of the details. What happens within those 10 years? It's a little frustrating, but you're right John, it has to be gone in 10 years. That, that everyone is agreed upon.
John Bever: That's the big one. So that could really be a big tax hit for some people in the situation that are receiving this large IRA.
Jim Uren: Yes.
John Bever: So if you have a large one, something you can do is you can give a portion or all of your IRA to charity upon your death and actually avoid the tax altogether. And if you still want the value of that to go to your beneficiary, you can replace the value of that with a life insurance policy or a portion of it.
Another idea, give a delayed gift to charity with a charitable remainder trust or a gift annuity. So what happens here is you put money into that account. You recognize a tax benefit when you fund the account, but you don't get a full tax benefit with the full amount because you're going to have some use of that over your lifetime. So you get a partial deduction. That's nice, because you still have use of the money to some degree. You benefit from the income, then the charity receives what is left at your death. That's a charitable remainder trust or gift annuity also does the same thing.
So another idea here is giving living gifts to charity to reduce your income dollar for dollar. This is what we're familiar with. This is what we're used to. We give to charity, we itemize. But what if you can't itemize that? Well, if you can itemize it, you might be limited anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of your adjusted gross income. You need to see your advisor on that because there's a lot of rules. But we're going to talk a little bit later if you can't itemize what you can do to potentially itemize.
But if you can itemize, then your gift is deductible depending on the type of gift, the year that it's given, the type of charity you give to. But with this, it's very important to recognize it's better to plan your giving so you can optimize the tax benefits of the gift. And those tax savings on your giving, it does take a lot more planning now that we have a higher standard deduction. That higher standard deduction is scheduled to go back down to the lower standard deduction in 2025. We'll see if that happens or not.
And then in 2020, Congress offered an above the line charitable deduction for up to $300 if you're filing single. $600, if you're filing, uh, married filing joint. Now, what is an above the line deduction?
Well, an above the line deduction means that you are taking that deduction not subject to itemizing. It's before you itemize. It's before your adjusted gross income. It's what used to be called above the line or on the front page of the old 1040 when it had a kind of a front and back feel to it. But anyways, with that, those are valuable because there's nothing that's going to restrict that. It just has to be given to a qualified charity up to $300 single, $600 married filing joint.
Jim Uren: So that above the line means everyone can take advantage of it. And just to kind of clarify in terms of the difference between what is itemized deductions versus a standard deduction, and essentially the IRS lets you discount some of your income that you get. And they do that one of two ways. They either allow you to take a standard deduction, which is just a flat dollar amount. It's going to vary a little bit by year and by the size of your family. So in other words, you can just remove that amount of income from your tax return.
Or you can add up all the itemized deductions. Itemized deductions just mean all the things that count, whether it be some portion of your property taxes, uh, charitable giving, etc. If those exceed that standard deduction, you can use that. And so at the end of the day, you're really just looking at which provides the highest income reduction.
But as John, you alluded to, the standard deduction is so generous, it was changed under the Trump administration, that it used to be most people itemized and now it's really reversed. So few of us itemize anymore and so a lot of our charitable contributions, we're not actually getting a benefit for.
John Bever: Right.
Jim Uren: And so that's, uh, that's what we mean when we say standard versus itemized. And that above the line deduction, you mentioned, John, that is beneficial cause that helps you either way, whichever camp you're in.
So anyway, now we're going to get a little bit more into that tax part of the equation. And John, when we talk about the year you retire, you know, retirement is a key time to revisit your charitable giving goals. Because it's not uncommon, as you know, that you can actually, sometimes because your income is changing, you lose the ability actually to itemize.
John Bever: Really is a very key time to do some, not only short term tax planning for the next year or two, but really a lifetime tax plan so you can optimize your tax picture because so many different things are moving around in retirement.
So let's understand how these itemized deduction works, right? So as you mentioned, Jim, there's a standard deduction that everybody can take advantage of. And if by chance your deductions that go into itemized deductions are larger than the standard, then you get to take the itemized deductions.
So the elements are, well, you have the tax piece, which would be your state and local taxes. You have your medical deduction and the medical deductions actually are dependent on your adjusted gross income. So when you add up your adjusted gross income there's a percentage which is applied right now. That's 7%. The first 7% of your adjusted gross income dollar amount up to that amount isn't deductible on your medical. So that's a thing where if we can lower the adjusted gross income, we might be able to qualify for some higher medical deductions.
And other things go in there such as the charitable giving. And that's one that everybody has control over on that charitable giving. So again, everybody gets the standard deduction, but if your deductions exceed that standard amount, then you get to itemize. So if you're not itemizing, Are you really getting the tax benefits from the contributions? Well, it's built into the standard deduction. So in a way you are, but you know what, if you weren't giving it all, you're still going to get the same standard deduction.
This is where we talk about bunching your deductions. So if you can't benefit from itemizing, what if you could take three or four years of itemizing and bunch that all into one year? Then you would probably qualify for an itemized deduction. So that's what we're looking at when we talk about bunching and you can bunch your charitable deductions.
There's some other ones that you can sort of bunch. You have a little bit of flexibility with that. For example, the medical deduction is taken when you pay the bill, not when the services are rendered. So that's something that some people have a little bit of control over is those medical bills.
And mortgage interest, again, it is deducted as paid, not charged. So if people are used to making that mortgage payment at the end of the month, maybe you want to push where you're doing it at the beginning of a month in one year so you actually get an extra deduction. Two deductions in one month. So these are little things that we can take a look at that you can add up to see if it makes sense to try and do some bunching.
And the idea here is to have some low years and then some high years. And typically that's offsetting where you have a high year followed by a low year or one high year followed by two low years. So bunching your charitable giving.
Think about this. If you could make several years of donations in one year and get over the standard deduction threshold, that would really be valuable because then it's like you're getting an extra deduction. You get the standard deduction in the years that you were going to give and then you bunch all that in one year and you get a large itemized deduction. Now, this qualifies if you do this with household items, vehicles, stuff that you inherited in your parents’ estate that's sitting in storage. So you could have some control over those charitables where you decide, hey, I'm going to give these all in one chunk in one year. So if you combine that idea of the giving of stuff along with the giving of cash, you might be able to qualify for an itemization.
Some clients do this real simply. Every other year is when they do their giving.
So think about this, we're coming up, maybe coming to the end of the year, you do all your giving in December, and then you skip a year, and then the following year, you give in January, and the following December, so you're kind of bunching two year’s worth of giving into one year. So you've got one year of giving, one year of not. And that year that you're not giving, you're just going to hold that to the following January.
Now if you do this and you do this regularly with the charity, it's always good to let the charity know your intent on this because they may be doing some budgeting based on regular giving.
I actually have one client who does this. One year is really just barely enough to itemize and they're kind of losing the ability to itemize. And it's a real simple way. They don't have to do anything else. They kind of control it themselves. It's a nice way to go, but I've got other clients where they can benefit from many years of bunching. So that's the idea behind bunching.
Jim Uren: And it works well, too, in situations where maybe your cash flow is odd, right, John? So maybe this is the year you get a large bonus or you sold a business or something where the cash flow is much higher than it's going to be in the following years. That's a great thing to also take a look at.
But in some cases, you know, two years of giving may not be enough to get over the standard threshold and clients can use something, John, called a donor advised fund. Maybe you can explain a little bit more of how that works.
John Bever: Yes, so a donor advised fund is very useful with this. And as we mentioned, a donor advised fund is a 501(c)(3). So what does that mean? When you put money into the donor advised fund, you're actually getting your charitable deduction when you put the money into the fund.
Now some people don't like the idea of bunching because they don't want to delay giving to charity. So they don't want to do this thing where it's one year on and one year off. They just want to give on a regular basis. The donor advised fund helps with that because it's a two-step process. You put money into the fund to get your deduction, but then you make grants from the fund to the charity.
And your grants to the charity, those don't affect your taxes. It's your initial contributions into the fund. So this way people can bunch to get the tax advantages, but they don't have to worry about bunching with the charity.
And then there are those people where two years of bunching just might not be quite enough to really get over the standard deduction, that threshold. And so by doing maybe four or five, six, I've had some clients do even 10 or 20 years’ worth of giving in one chunk. We'll talk about that strategy in a little bit.
So, how do you do this? Well, again, remember, it's a separation between the deduction and the grant, the contribution to the fund, and what eventually goes to charity. Think about this. Congress appropriates money in a bill, right? But then they dole that money out over time. It's kind of the same idea with the donor advised fund. So again, you get that charitable deduction as you put money into the fund. And then from the fund, from that donor advised fund, you grant money to the charities of your choice. And the nice thing is you don't have to delay your gift to the charity, your grant, you can put money into the fund and the, you know, right away you can start granting that money to the charity.
Now, by carefully planning your giving, then you can get over that standard deduction threshold. So let's say that in a particular year, a married filing joint is $28,000, just as an example, and that is your standard deduction. And your itemized deductions come up to $20,000, so you're $8,000 short. So unless you're giving is over $8,000, it's not going to be deductible. But, if you could take five years’ worth of giving, so $8,000 times five is $40,000, if you put that $40,000 into a donor advised fund, you have an itemized deduction that year.
And how much of that is deductible? Well, the first $8,000 is just part of the standard deduction. You got to get over that. So about 80% of the contribution now is deductible versus not being deductible at all, just part of the standard deduction.
So how much would you save in this case? Well, the total contribution to the fund is $40,000. $32,000 of that is deductible. And if you're in the 22% bracket, that's $7,000. So you can pick up an extra $7,000 of tax savings through a $32,000 excess itemized deduction. And again, remember, in the off years, you still get the standard deduction every year.
So again, a donor advised fund is a 501(c)(3) charity you contribute to. You receive the tax deduction when you donate, but then you grant money to your charities over time. And that can even be over decades.
And here's a neat thing. That donor advised fund can potentially grow as in many cases, it can be invested in mutual funds. So you can potentially grant more to the charity than you actually originally contributed to the fund if the fund grows over time. And these are available from financial institutions, community foundations, very easy, just Google search, a donor advised fund and you'll have a plethora of choices before you.
Jim Uren: And what we've seen too is some clients take that tax savings and also give all or a portion of that to charity. So you're getting the growth of the, of the investments in the donor advised fund. Plus you've got the money that you're saving on taxes. So this strategy in a lot of cases can really increase how much you can give to your church or charity of your choice.
So it's really cool to be a part of these gifts. And then, you know, I think you alluded to this John too, but a lot of times then let's say you maybe give three years’ worth of giving this first year into the donor advised fund. We still have clients in the next couple of years, take that cash flow that they had been setting aside every month, or just, you know, giving to charity and we have them bank that.
So in other words, the charity is still getting their money, but you're banking your charitable contributions so that it's ready to go in that second or third year when you plop another chunk of money into the donor advised fund to get that tax deduction. So again, we can do this over multiple years and really reduce the tax bill in some cases and often increase the amount of money that you can give to charity, which is really exciting.
What are some other strategies, John, with using a donor advised fund?
John Bever: So people sell businesses, people sell homes that aren't their primary residents, and they've got tax issues with those things. These can also be opportunities to use a donor advised fund by making a lump sum contribution to that donor advised fund of the gain potentially, if they've got the cash from the sale. Sometimes we have actually had some clients actually put a piece of real estate into a donor advised fund.
There's a way that that actually can be done, but just donating the gain portion shelters the gain. And we're going to talk about a limitation on the contributions in just a moment. So you do have to be aware of that. One of the things that happens with the sale rental real estate is something called recapture of depreciation that catches a lot of people by surprise.
So they just think, oh, I bought the home for $300,000. I sold it for $600,000. I've got a $300,000 gain. Well, no, it's going to be more than that. If they've been depreciating it as a rental property, all that depreciation they've been taking or their accountant has put on that tax return that they didn't really understand.
They have to recapture that. That means they bring those losses into the year that they sell the property. And now it's a gain they have to recognize that as income. So again, a donor advised fund can be a really useful tool to help cover that income and reduce it down so the tax isn't as great.
Jim Uren: And John, so you mentioned the limit the IRS imposes on us in terms of our charitable deductions. Can you explain what happens if we do happen to go over that limit in a given year?
John Bever: It's okay. Don't worry about it. It carries forward. So if you go a $1,000 over that limit, and again, it's, it's kind of a movable limit because it depends on the type of property given in the type of charity. But let's say you go $1,000 over that limit that's not usable that year. It carries forward to the next year.
Now it's going to show up in your itemized deductions. It might not be enough to create a true itemization. So from that standpoint, it might not be useful that next year, but you don't lose it.
So I have an interesting story on this because I have a client who desires to give away as much as they spend on themselves every year. So whatever their regular monthly expenses are, that's how much their goal is to give. Well, as you can imagine, they've accumulated a lot of carry forward charitable deductions that are never going to be lost. They just keep carry forward, wiping out virtually all of the taxable income. And it's a, it's kind of an interesting situation that they have. So, but what is this is nice is that when that client needs to take a large withdrawal out of the IRA, they've actually got a nice carry forward charitable deduction that will cover a lot of that income. And those can be a large withdrawal, such as a car purchase, major house repair bills, even large medical bills.
So let's summarize here are the steps for actually using a donor advised fund:
First of all, you need to identify the fund. And again, these are available through banks, mutual funds, community foundations, they all sponsor these. So just do a search on the internet to find a fund that fits what you want to use.
Secondly, calculate your optimal donation amount. And this would be the timing of the donation, what year would work out best, as well as do you want to donate assets as opposed to cash.
So you calculate that optimal donation, then, go ahead and contribute the cash or the securities or the appreciated assets to the fund.
Those assets are then sold by the donor advised fund and they can be invested. So if you're going to have a large amount, you certainly want to have some good investment options available to you in that donor advised fund.
Then number five, you're going to start making your grant recommendations to the final qualified 501(c)(3) charities. And it's important, it is qualified 501(c)(3) charities. So if you say, “You know what, my son is a charity case,” not going to work. Okay. It's got to be a qualified charity.
Number six, then you spread your grants out over the timeframe that you want to benefit the charities. And this is an interesting point. Some people actually want some of their donations to be anonymous. When you set up that donor advised fund, you actually get to put a name on that fund. And the donations to the ultimate charities are going to be in the name of your fund. So if you want your donations to be anonymous, you can actually set up a name that makes it anonymous.
I have some clients that have two donor advised funds. One that can be identified to them, one which is anonymous for those anonymous gifts that they want to make. But the important thing to recognize is that the charities receive the money as you time your grants. So if you're going to make a large contribution to that donor advised funds for tax purposes, but you want to give that gift to the charity or charities over time, you have that flexibility to do that.
So Jim, any last thoughts on this topic?
Jim Uren: You know, one, just one other question that I often get from folks is, so if I've got this donor advised fund, what happens if I die and there's still money in the donor advised fund? And typically you've got a couple options. You could just ask your donor advised fund upon your death, and again, you could have this set up jointly if you have a spouse, but upon your death or the second death of the spouse, you could just say, I just want it distributed to these charities right away.
Your other option, you could actually name a successor grantor, I think is the term. So you could say, you know, let's still leave, let's say $50,000 in there, but I'm going to allow my children to now decide what charities the money goes to.
Again, as John mentioned, it can never go back to you or your kids personally. It still has to go to charities, but, so that's another option that you could, you could do. So the money will still, still go to charity which is really, obviously one of the main motivations for giving.
John Bever: So, yeah, and some families actually use us like a simple family foundation. They actually have a meeting once a year. What are the charities that we would like to give to and they're planning on using that as that handoff to the next generation. Really teaching them that idea of giving kind of like the early Puritans in the 1600s coming to the United States, still carrying on that tradition of giving.
Jim Uren: Absolutely.
John Bever: And along those lines of the tradition of giving, we like to give some gratitudes at the end of these podcasts, things that we are thankful for. And, I'm actually thinking about my daughters because, one of my daughters, my youngest daughter, we talked once a week and she said, you know, I'm starting, this dinner to get together with a bunch of friends, you know, they kind of missed this with COVID.
She says, we just need more community. And so we're getting together once a week and I'm hosting it. And you know, we're cooking stuff and having fun and playing games. And, the reason that's my thankful is it's such a joy because that's what Pam and I did for so many years. And it's really neat to see that caught by the next generation.
You kind of go through that window with your kids where you're not quite sure anything stuck. And then they get to the age where, yeah, you find out it really did stick. So I'm really thankful for that today. How about you Jim?
Jim Uren: You know, it's funny because on my list too, is actually the kids’ activities. You know, I think back to when I was a kid and, uh, you know, I think we had sports options where I think like T-ball and soccer was about it. Maybe a little basketball.
And not a lot beyond that. And our kids, it's just amazing how many activities they've had. I mean, I, I think we've got kids now in gymnastics. We've got one kid in archery. Our kids just did a police camp and had a great time. It's just amazing. Of course we're running all over the place, but, it's fun to see the opportunities that kids have today to participate in all these fun activities.
So I am thankful for that. I'm thankful for this podcast and for our partnership, John. And so that will wrap it up again. Stay tuned for the fun, important disclosures at the end of the podcast.
John Bever: All right.
Disclosure: The views expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the opinions of Phase 3 Advisory Services and should not be construed directly or indirectly as an offer to buy or sell any securities or services mentioned herein. Unless otherwise specified, show guests are not securities licensed or affiliated with Phase 3 Advisory Services or Osaic Wealth. Investing is subject to risks, including loss of principal invested. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
No strategy can assure profit nor protect against loss. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should only be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice. Securities offered through Osaic Wealth, Inc. member FINRA/SIPC. Additional investment. and insurance advisory services offered through Phase 3 Advisory Services Limited, a Registered Investment Advisor.
Osaic Wealth is separately owned and other entities and or marketing names, products or services referenced here are independent of Osaic Wealth. Phase 3 Advisory Services is located at 1110 West Lake Cook Road, Suite 265 in Buffalo Grove, Illinois 60089. Our phone number is 847-520-5545. For additional information, visit our website at phase3advisory.com.