The mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to maximize charitable giving in Iowa. To that end I work with nonprofits on legal compliance and training for accepting gifts (especially complex ones) as well as the donors who want to give to their favorite organizations and causes. Small Business Saturday is great for the community and Cyber Monday is fun, but the post-Thanksgiving “day” I look forward to the most is #GivingTuesday.
Created by the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y in New York, along with the United Nations Foundation, in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a celebration for support of philanthropy and giving. Social media has helped grow the event into a global occasion, connecting countries, organizations, and donors around the world.
Giving Tuesday takes place mid holiday season and is a great opportunity to spread awareness of nonprofits midst holiday cheer. Whether you’re prepping your nonprofit’s activities, messaging, and events for #GivingTuesday or are a donor preparing to give (and encourage others to do the same) let’s take a look at some stats from last year (2018) that show the enormous impact #GivingTuesday has.
- Faith-based charities received the largest sector percentage of #GivingTuesday donations made online.
- At $125 million Facebook was the largest payment processing platform.
- $3.6 million of Giving Tuesday donations were made online and 17% of all views of online donation forms were made on a mobile device
- $380 million was given total (which was a 45% increase over 2017)
- More than 150 countries participated
- Since 2012, Giving Tuesday has raised more than $1 billion in the U.S.
All year, not just on #GivingTuesday, GFLF is thrilled to work with nonprofit organizations on elements of operations including, but certainly not limited to;
- Training of nonprofit boards and staff and educating on charitable giving tools and techniques;
- Employment law guidance for nonprofits including advice about hiring and firing, and drafting of policies and procedures;
- Handling compliance issues, like forming a 501(c)(3) and Form 990 reporting; and
- Working with nonprofit and donors on complex gifts.
#GivingTuesday is a reminder that, against the backdrop of the “busy” of the holiday season, the spirit of giving is thriving. Want to chat about charitable giving? Reach out anytime by email or phone (515-371-6077)
For the majority of the 25 Days of Giving series, I’m going to focus on charitable gifts made to nonprofit organizations. But, investing in a student’s future and helping to make higher education more affordable and accessible is certainly a valid cause…and has tax benefits of its own. This brings to mind a different type of gift you can give to a loved one who is currently or planning on attending college: the 529 Plan.
The 411 on the 529
Gordon Fischer Law Firm is dedicated to Iowans, so I’ll focus on the College Savings Iowa 529 plan, but know that all 50 states and D.C. sponsor at least one type of 529 plan. There are two types of 529 plans—prepaid tuition plans and college savings plans. The College Savings Iowa plan is a tax-advantaged program sponsored and administered by the Treasurer of the State of Iowa. The purpose? Just as the name “college savings” says, it is intended to “help an individual or a family pay for higher-education costs.”
The account funds can be used by the beneficiary for any purpose, but for the withdrawals to be considered tax-free, the money must be used for qualified higher-education expenses at an eligible educational institution by the student. Eligible expenses include elements associated with higher education such as: tuition, mandatory fees, books, required supplies, computers (including related hardware and software), internet access, equipment required for enrollment/attendance, and even room and board during any academic period where the student is enrolled at least half-time.
If withdrawals are made and not used for a qualified expense, the deductions must be added back to Iowa taxable income and adjusted annually for inflation. Additionally, the earnings part of the non-qualified withdrawal may be subject to a 10% federal penalty tax on top of federal income tax. A great alternative to non-qualified withdrawals if the student doesn’t end up going to or paying for school is transferring the money to another eligible beneficiary’s 529 account.
Who Can be a 529 Plan Beneficiary?
Your school years may be far behind you, but you can set up a 529 for any beneficiary. The only requirements are that the prospective or current student must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien with a valid Social Security number or other taxpayer ID number. The student doesn’t have to reside in Iowa or be related to you in any way. So, you could set-up a 529 for your niece, but also your friend’s son whom you’ve known since he was little…even if he lives in another state!
Federal, State, & Estate Tax Benefits
The most obvious benefit of College Savings Iowa 529 accounts is that contributed assets grow deferred from federal and state income taxes. Plus, Iowa taxpayers can deduct up to $3,387 in contributions per beneficiary (student) account from adjusted gross income for 2019. These contributions can usually be made up through the tax-filing deadline. (For example, you could make a tax-deductible contribution for the 2017 tax year up until the end of April 2018.)
Beyond the $3,387 state tax deduction, you can contribute up to $75,000 in a single tax year for each beneficiary (or $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly) without incurring federal gift tax. This is provided you don’t make any other gifts to that student beneficiary over the course of five years. For the purpose of the contribution, it’s as if you made the $75,000 gift over the course of five years. Any additional gifts made to the beneficiary during that five-year period will incur a gift tax.
There’s another major benefit when it comes to the 529 and estate taxes. Money contributed to a 529 account is generally treated as a “completed gift” to the student beneficiary, but as the contributor/participant, you still have control over the money. If you were to die with money remaining in your account, it will not be included in your estate for federal estate tax purposes. In short, the 529 is a valid tool if your goal is to reduce the total of your estate to avoid the estate tax, but still, help a student you care about.
In terms of the estate tax, if you took the option for the $75,000 contribution ($150,000 for married couples) to a 529 plan account as if it was made over five years and then you die within the five-year window, a prorated portion of the contribution will be subject to estate tax. This can get a bit confusing, so please speak with your trusted estate planning attorney or tax advisor for more personalized information.
What’s your experience with 529 plans? Any questions in regards to how contributing to a 529 plan could impact your tax savings? Don’t hesitate to contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (515-371-6077).
Thanks for reading the 25 Days of Giving series. We’re “unwrapping” posts on various aspects (some well known, and some more obscure) of charitable giving each day through Christmas.
I know what you’re thinking…a bargain sale means discounts on stuff at the store. But, I’m talking about a different kind of sale—a useful charitable giving tool/technique.
Bargain sales defined
Bargain sales can be a useful charitable giving tool/technique. A bargain sale is a transaction in which a donor receives less than the full market value of property transferred to the charity. The transaction is treated as part sale, part gift, with the donor’s basis allocated proportionally between the gift amount and the sale amount.
Simple example of a bargain sale
Let’s take a simple example. Assume Jill Donor owns farmland worth $1 million, for which she paid $200,000 years ago. Jill sells the land to her local community foundation for $500,000 and starts her own donor-advised fund. Jill then makes a gift of the difference ($500,000) between the sale price and the fair market value of the farmland. Jill must pay tax on the gain element but may receive a charitable deduction on the gift element.
The total basis of $200,000 is allocated between the gift and sale portions. Since Jill sold the land for half price of fair market value, the basis is allocated 50/50. Therefore, the allocated basis is $100,000. The gain, then, is $400,000; assuming the top capital gain tax rate of 20%, this would mean $80,000 of capital gains tax due. But Jill also avoided another $80,000 of capital gains tax by the bargain sale of the property.
The net result in this simple example is positive for Jill. Again, Jill received $500,000 in cash. But, she also may receive a charitable deduction for having gifted $500,000. The charitable deduction at, say, the top rate of income taxation, 37%, would be $185,000. One way to look at this entire transaction is that Jill received $500,000, paid $80,000 in capital gains taxes, but received a $185,000 deduction, meaning a net of positive cash flow of $605,000 to Jill.
Remember, all Iowans are unique and have individual legal and tax issues. Consult your own professional advisor for personal advice. Questions? Contact me at any time via email (email@example.com) or by phone (515-371-6077).