holiday wreath with ornament

Thank you for reading the 25 Days of Giving series! In the spirit of the holiday season I’m covering different aspects of charitable giving…perfect to get you thinking about your end-of-year giving.

I came across an article in Forbes about two tax court cases where families claimed large charitable contributions on their federal income tax and, given that they were fraudulent claims, failed to have the substantiation to back it up. As the article stated, “the IRS is NOT messing around when it comes to holding taxpayers to the substantiation requirements for charitable contributions.” The substantiation is required in exchange for the federal income charitable deduction.

Note there is, of course, a limit to the charitable deduction on your taxes. Mind this when considering maxing out your charitable deduction.

Substantiation requirements

First and foremost, the donations must be made to a qualified charitable organization. You must then be able to substantiate your contribution to said qualified charitable organization. The record keeping required by the IRS depends on the amount of your contribution. At their most basic, the IRS substantiation rules for the charitable deduction are as follows:

  • Gifts of less than $250 per donee — you need a cancelled check or receipt
  • $250 or more per donee — you need a timely written acknowledgement from the donee
  • Total deductions for all property exceeds $500 — you need to file IRS Form 8283
  • Deductions exceeding $5,000 per item — you need a qualified appraisal completed by a qualified appraiser

Gifts of $250 or more per donee

Let’s focus for today on gifts of $250 or more per donee. Specifically, the income tax charitable deduction is not allowed for a separate contribution of $250 or more unless the donor has written substantiation from the donee of the contribution in the form of a contemporaneous written acknowledgement.

The $250 threshold

Note this $250 threshold is applied to each contribution separately. So, if a donor makes multiple contributions to the same charity totaling $250 or more in a single year, but each gift is less than $250, written acknowledgment is not required. [Unless the smaller gifts are related and made to avoid the substantiation requirements].

Written acknowledgment

The written acknowledgement must indicate:

  1. the name and address of the donee;
  2. the date of the contribution;
  3. the amount of cash contributed;
  4. a description of any property contributed;
  5. whether the donee provided the donor any goods or services in exchange for the contribution; and, if so;
  6. a description, and a good faith estimate, of the value of the good or services provided or, if the only goods or services provided were intangible religious benefits, a statement to that effect.

Contemporaneous acknowledgement

The IRS definition of contemporaneous is that the acknowledgment must be obtained by the donor on or before the earlier of:

a. the date the donor files the original return for the year the donation was made; or

b. the return’s extended due date.

A donor cannot amend a return to include contributions for which an acknowledgment is obtained after the original return was filed.

Responsibility lies with the donor

Interestingly, the responsibility for obtaining this documentation lies with the donor. The donee (the charity) is not required to record or report this information to the IRS on behalf of the donor.

If this sounds like a lot, know you don’t have to navigate these requirements just by yourself. Contact me at any time to discuss your situation and charitable giving goals. We’ll figure out the best course of action together.

red ornaments Endow Iowa Tax Credit

 Thank you for reading the 25 Days of Giving series! In the spirit of the holiday season I’m covering different aspects of charitable giving…perfect to get you thinking about your end-of-year giving.

There are many, many reasons Iowa is great place to live and work. One reason is the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program—a smart way to stretch your charitable dollars. Iowa community foundations provide exclusive access to the Endow Iowa Tax Credit program. Giving through the Endow Iowa program allows Iowa taxpayers to receive a 25% Iowa tax credit, in addition to the federal charitable income tax deduction, for qualifying charitable gifts.

The Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program provides unique opportunities to meet philanthropic goals while receiving maximum tax benefits. Highlights of this program include:

  • A variety of gifts qualify for Endow Iowa Tax Credits including cash, real estate, grain, appreciated securities, and outright gifts of retirement assets. In fact, appreciated assets, like stocks or real estate, can provide even better value because the donor may avoid capital gains taxes.
  • To be eligible, gifts must benefit an Iowa charity.
  • Tax credits of 25% of the gifted amount are limited to $300,000 in tax credits per individual for a gift of $1.2 million, or $600,000 in tax credits per couple for a gift of $2.4 million, assuming both are Iowa taxpayers.
  • Eligible gifts will qualify for credits on a first-come/first-serve basis until the yearly appropriated limit is reached. If the current available Endow Iowa Tax Credits have been awarded, qualified donors will be eligible for the next year’s Endow Iowa Tax Credits. Donors should be encouraged to to act as early in the year as possible to ensure receipt of credits as soon as possible.
  • All qualified donors can carry forward the tax credit for up to five years after the year the donation was made.

There is one “catch.” Funds can only be granted at a spend rate of 5% per year. It should also be noted that the Endow Iowa Tax Credits are capped. The Iowa Legislature sets aside a pool of money for Endow Iowa, and it’s available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Submitting an application at the beginning of the tax year is advised, as tax credits often run out toward year’s end. In fact, this year approximately $6 million in tax credits were awarded and there are no more available credits to be granted. However, you can submit your application to be placed on the wait list for 2019 tax credits.

In exchange for 25% Iowa tax credit and the opportunity to have an even greater impact on their philanthropic interests in the state of Iowa, now and into the future, the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program should be seriously considered by all. The impact is immense: in 2016, donors received tax credits for more than 4,030 separate donations to at least 120 different community foundations and affiliate organizations through Endow Iowa. And, since 2003, more than $215 million has been invested through the program to improve residents’ lives.

Any questions or thoughts on how the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program could mean big benefits for your finances and your state? Don’t hesitate to contact me.

lights on roof

Thanks for reading the 25 Days of Giving series where w a’re “unwrapping” important info on various aspects of charitable giving each day through Christmas. Share with friends, family, & colleagues to inspire others to also make meaningful gifts this season.

If you’re making a non-cash charitable donation of over $5,000, first off, high five! That’s going to go a long way toward helping your favorite charity or advancing a cause you feel passionate about. Because you’re a smart donor, you’re also probably planning to claim the federal income tax charitable deduction as a way of reducing your taxes. In order to do this, gifts of that size come with specific requirements from the IRS that you’ll want to be sure to meet.

Requirements for “qualified appraisal” and “qualified appraiser”

Non-cash gifts of more than $5,000 in value, with exceptions, require a qualified appraisal completed by a qualified appraiser. The terms “qualified appraisal” and “qualified appraiser” are very specific and have detailed definitions according to the IRS.

Qualified appraisal

money on table

A qualified appraisal is a document which is:

  1. made, signed, and dated by a qualified appraiser in accordance with generally accepted appraisal standards;
  2. timely;
  3. does not involve prohibited appraisal fees; and
  4. includes certain and specific information.

Let’s further examine each of these four requirements.

“Qualified appraiser:” Appraiser education and experience requirements

An appraiser is treated as having met the minimum education and experience requirements if she is licensed or certified for the type of property being appraised in the state in which the property is located. For a gift of real estate in Iowa this means certification by the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau, Real Estate Appraisers.

Further requirements for a qualified appraiser include that s/he:

  1. regularly performs appraisals for compensation;
  2. demonstrates verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property subject to the appraisal;
  3. understands she may be subject to penalties for aiding and abetting the understatement of tax; and
  4. not have been prohibited from practicing before the IRS at any time during three years preceding the appraisal.

Also, a qualified appraiser must be sufficiently independent. This means a qualified appraiser cannot be any of the following:

  1. the donor;
  2. the donee;
  3. the person from whom the donor acquired the property [with limited exceptions];
  4. any person employed by, or related to, any of the above; and/or
  5. an appraiser who is otherwise qualified, but who has some incentive to overstate the value of the property.

Timing of appraisal

clock against background s

The appraisal must be made not earlier than 60 days prior to the gift and not later than the date the return is due (with extensions).

Prohibited appraisal fees

The appraiser’s fee for a qualified appraisal cannot be based on a percentage of the value of the property, nor can the fee be based on the amount allowed as a charitable deduction.

Specific information in required in appraisal

Specific information must be included in an appraisal, including:

  1. a description of the property;
  2. the physical condition of any tangible property;
  3. the date (or expected date) of the gift;
  4. any restrictions relating to the charity’s use or disposition of the property;
  5. the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the qualified appraiser;
  6. the appraiser’s qualifications, including background, experience, education, certification, and any membership in professional appraisal associations;
  7. a statement that the appraisal was prepared for income tax purposes;
  8. the date (or dates) on which the property was valued;
  9. the appraised fair market value on the date (or expected date) of contribution;
  10. the method of valuation used to determine fair market value;
  11. the specific basis for the valuation, such as any specific comparable sales transaction; and
  12. an admission if the appraiser is acting as a partner in a partnership, an employee of any person, or an independent contractor engaged by a person, other than the donor, with such a person’s name, address, and taxpayer identification number.

Appraiser’s dated signature and declaration

Again, a qualified appraisal must be signed and dated by the appraiser. Also, there must be a written declaration from the appraiser she is aware of the penalties for substantial or gross valuation.

Reasonable cause

Tax courts have held that a taxpayer’s reliance on the advice of a professional, such as an attorney or CPA constitutes reasonable cause and good faith if the taxpayer can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the taxpayer reasonably believed the professional was a competent tax adviser with sufficient expertise to justify reliance; (2) the taxpayer provided necessary and accurate information to the advising professional; and (3) the taxpayer actually relied in good faith on the professional’s advice.

If this sounds like a lot, know you don’t have to navigate these requirements just by yourself. Contact me at any time to discuss your situation and charitable giving goals. We’ll figure out the best course of action together.

charitable gift tax limits - hand holding christmas gift

If you choose to itemize your taxes, charitable contributions can reduce your tax bill. Generally you would choose to itemize when the combined total of your anticipated deductions (like charitable gifts) add up to more than the standard deduction. For 2018 taxes the standard deductions are:

  • $12,000 for single individuals
  • $12,000 for married, filing separately
  • $24,000 for married filing jointly
  • $18,000 for head of household

If you do choose to itemize, limits on federal income tax charitable deductions are quite high, but they do exist. Keep this in mind as you make any year-end donations. The specific limitations are complicated, and there are numerous exceptions. The limits are based on your AGI (adjusted gross income). AGI is an individual’s total gross income minus specific deductions.

A quick rule-of-thumb for different types of donated assets to public charities:

  • Appreciated capital gains assets (such as stock) up to 20% of AGI
  • Non-cash assets up to 30% of AGI
  • Cash contributions, up to 60% of AGI
  • You can deduct transportation costs and other expenses related to volunteering

Note that these rates are for public tax-exempt organization and private operating foundations. Contributions to certain private foundations, veterans organizations, fraternal societies, and cemetery organizations are limited to 30% adjusted gross income. (Check out these IRS status codes and deductible limits if you’re unsure of an organization’s limit.)

As I mentioned, most people won’t exceed these limits indicated above, but it can happen. For instance, if Jane Donor is a retiree living off of savings and donates more than her investments yield over the year, her limit could be exceeded. The good news is that in this case the IRS allows you carry over excess contributions for up to five following tax years.

Don’t forget to take these steps if you plan to itemize your charitable deductions:

  • Make sure the nonprofit organization is a 501(c)(3) public charity or private foundation
  • Keep a record of the contribution (usually the tax receipt from the charity)
  • Depending on the donation amount/type, you may need to obtain a qualified appraisal to substantiate the claimed value of the deduction
  • Subtract the value of any benefits you received for your charitable contribution before you deduct it

I’m happy to advise on your situation and help you maximize your charitable giving for this tax year. I can be reached by phone at 515-371-6077 and by email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

Santa with Heart

Thanks for reading the 25 Days of Giving series! Share with friends, family, & colleagues to inspire others to also make meaningful year end gifts this season…and plan ahead for 2019 charitable goals.

Under the new tax code, you may have changed the ways in which you give or the tax-beneficial strategies you employ with your charitable giving. What hasn’t changed, is that you may choose to deduct from your federal income tax any charitable contributions of money or property made to qualified organizations if you itemize your deductions. But, there are record keeping requirements you’ll want to stay on top of, so you’re not scrambling during tax time!

Payroll deduction substantiation

Making a charitable deduction directly from your paycheck is a great and steadfast way to be sure to meet your charitable giving goals. For charitable contributions made via payroll deductions, the donor needs two documents to substantiate the gift:

  1. a pay stub, W-2, or other document furnished by the employer that sets forth the amount withheld from the taxpayer during a taxable year by the employer for the purpose of contributing to a charity;
  2. a pledge card or other document prepared by or at the direction of the charity that shows the name of the charity.

Donors who give to a local United Way or other organizations that funnel contributions to other charities need to only obtain the pledge card or other document from the United Way and not from the affiliated charities which ultimately receive the money.

Payroll deductions of $250 or more

Tax law requires that for any contribution of $250 or more, the taxpayer must substantiate the contribution by a contemporaneous written acknowledgement of the contribution by the charity. For payroll deductions, the contribution amount withheld from each payment of wages to a taxpayer is treated as a separate contribution for purposes of the $250 threshold.

So, for example, a taxpayer who gave $300 over the course of a year through payroll deductions, $30 per paycheck over ten paychecks, would not trigger the $250 substantiation requirement. The substantiation requirement would only kick in if $250 or more is withheld from each paycheck.

If any of this is confusing, know you don’t have to navigate these requirements just by yourself. Contact me at any time to discuss your situation and charitable giving goals. We’ll figure out the best course of action together!

The title of this sounds pretty lacking in the “merry and bright” department…especially considering this is the 25 Days of Giving series! But, the name here describes a little-known deduction beneficial for volunteers…and nonprofits to stress to volunteers to indeed encourage more volunteering!

The IRS does NOT allow a charitable deduction for volunteering your services. However, out-of-pocket expenses relating to volunteering are deductible. Yes, seriously!

Any given charity should provide volunteers with a description of the contributed services and state whether there has been any transfer from the charity of goods or services back to the donor. In addition to other out-of-pocket expenses, mileage is deductible at the IRS rate. Also, expenses like tolls and parking can be deductible.

For example, if a volunteer travels to attend a meeting or conference sponsored by the charity, then there is a deduction only if there is “no significant amount of personal pleasure” in the meeting. This has become known as the “no smile” rule. To be deductible, the principal purpose of the meeting must be to further charitable goals (aka operative mission). Which, if you think about it, is something worth smiling about!

2 girls "no-smile rule"

Any questions as to what donors can and can’t deduct? If you’re a nonprofit organization you may have questions about the extent of information you’re required to provide. I welcome any questions on the topics. Gordon can be easily reached by phone at 515-371-6077; by email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

Candles and christmas tree for charity auction

Thanks for reading the 25 Days of Giving series! Share with friends, family, & colleagues. Knowledge is indeed a “gift” when it comes to encouraging and maximizing smart charitable giving

Headed to a holiday party this season? If it’s to celebrate/fundraise for your favorite charity, you might experience an auction (silent or otherwise). Charity auctions can be great fun and it feels like you’re giving back while also gaining a great gift to tuck under the Christmas tree!

Sometimes charity auction participants mistakenly believe their successful bids are completely deductible. However, since the individual receives the auction property, there is usually no federal income tax charitable deduction. But, if the bid can be shown to be in excess of the fair market value of the item, the amount in excess can be deducted as a charitable contribution.

The charity may make a “good faith estimate” of the fair value of the auction item before bidding commences.

Noel at charity auction

Let’s look at a few easy examples:

Example 1. A $50 gift certificate to a retail store is purchased at charity auction for $40. No deduction.

Example 2. A different $50 gift certificate to the spa is purchased at the charity auction for $70. This generates a $20 charitable deduction.

Example 3. You bid on and win a fruit basket for $30 at an auction supporting a local high school basketball program. The equivalent fruit basket at a local grocery store would cost $15, so you may receive a $15 tax deduction.

Unsure if your actions at a charity auction mean a charitable deduction? It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion. Also, if you’re a nonprofit leader planning on hosting a charity auction it’s advantageous to be briefed on all the tax and legal rules surrounding the event in case donors ask. I’m always happy to help and offer a free one-hour consultation. Reach me by phone at 515-371-6077 or by email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

pinecones with candle

If you’ve been reading along with the 25 Days of Giving Series throughout December, thank you. If you’ve happened upon the GoFisch blog just now, welcome! I hope to see you back here often.

Giving for the sake of giving is great, however it’s financially wise to make certain your charitable donation is also beneficial in terms of your taxes.

Charitable gifts are defined by the IRS, at least for the purpose of qualifying for a charitable deduction from federal income tax. A review of statutes and caselaw show that the IRS attributes several major characteristics to charitable gifts:

Charitable intent

snow-globe-christmas

There must be a clear and unmistakable intention on the part of the donor to absolutely and irrevocably to divest herself of both title and control of the property.

Irrevocable transfer

The irrevocable transfer of the present legal title and dominion and control of the entire gift to the charity so that the donor can exercise no further act of dominion and control over it.

Delivery

bus with tree on top

The donor must deliver the gift to the charity. (Delivery can be made through a number of ways. This could be hand-delivered, like dropping off a check. It could also mean a secure electronic payment made on the charity’s website. In the case of charitable gifts of grain this could mean physically delivering the grain to a specific silo.)

Acceptance

The charity must accept the gift. For instance, you may want to donate part of your modern art collection to your favorite nonprofit, but if the nonprofit doesn’t have the resources to accept or doesn’t want the collection for some reason, it’s not a charitable gift.

Qualified organization

The donee must be an organization recognized as charitable by the IRS. You can use this IRS online search tool for organizations to see if the charity you’re considering donating to is recognized as tax-exempt.


Want to be sure your charitable gift is indeed a tax deductible charitable gift in the eyes of the IRS? What about charitable gifts or life insurance or a retained life estate? It certainly doesn’t hurt to take me up on my offer for a free one-hour consultation. Give me a call at 515-371-6077 or shoot me an email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

gold and silver christmas gift

Thanks for the reading the 25 Days of Giving series! Each day through December 25, I’m covering different aspects of charitable giving for both donors and nonprofit leaders. Have a topic you want covered or question you want answered regarding charitable giving? Contact me.

The vast majority of public and private universities and colleges are tax-exempt entities as defined by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3) because of their educational purposes and/or the fact that they are state governmental entities. If this is the case, gave you ever wondered why tuition for a student to attend a university is not deductible as a charitable contribution? This is known in gift law as as a “personal benefit” transfer. The personal benefit of education for the student is equal to the tuition paid. Because of the benefit value, there is no charitable gift and therefore no federal income tax charitable contribution deduction.

university library

Another example of personal benefit transfer would be payment to a charity for specific services, and such payments are not deductible. In Hernandez v. Commissionerthe U.S. Supreme Court determined gifts of fixed amounts to the Church of Scientology (a tax-exempt religious organization) in exchange for personal counseling were not deductible. The Court held that such “gifts” were more appropriately considered payments for services rather than charitable contributions.

If you ever have a question if a charitable gift is tax deductible, don’t hesitate to contact me. It never hurts to get a second opinion on potential personal benefit situations, especially if the opinion can mean potentially avoiding an IRS audit.

We’re now well into the 25 Days of Giving Series and it’s my intent to provide different aspects and strategies of charitable giving. Given that it’s the season of joy, sharing, and love it’s a great time to be thinking about smart giving (the kind that doesn’t involve gift wrappings, stockings, or bows). Read on to learn how the charitable remainder trust could be a valuable giving tool. 

Charitable Remainder Trust, defined

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) is a split interest trust that pays out income to one or more non-charitable beneficiaries for life (or lives) or a term of years not to exceed twenty. The selected payout rate may not be less than 5%, and no more than 50%, of fair market value (FMV) of assets originally placed in trust. At the end of the trust term, the remaining trust assets (the remainder interest) is distributed to charity selected by the donor; the actuarial value of the charity’s remainder interest must be at least 10% at the time of the trust’s creation.

Benefits of a CRT

  1. Note that a useful attribute of a CRT is flexibility. Although Donor’s transfer of property to the trust is irrevocable, a CRT provides for Donor the right to change charitable beneficiaries.
  2. Note also the tax benefits of a CRT. Donor may receive a federal income tax charitable deduction for the value of the remainder interest in the year of the transfer, Donor may transfer assets without recognition of capital gain tax, and there is no estate tax on the property passing to Charity.

Two forms: CRAT and CRUT

CRTs take one of two forms: a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT) or a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT). There are important differences:

A CRAT pays an annuity to the income beneficiary at a selected payout rate that is a percentage of the assets valued at the time of the trust creation. Additional contributions to the trust are not permitted.

A CRUT pays a percentage of the annual value of the trust assets, a unitrust amount, to the income beneficiary. Additional contributions to the trust are permitted.

Variations of CRUTs

Several variations of the CRUT are permitted under the Internal Revenue Code:

  1. A Net-Income CRUT (NICRUT) permits the trustee to distribute an annual payment that is the lesser of the specified percentage of value in that year, or the net income actually earned by the trust in that year.
  2. A NIMCRUT is a CRUT with a net-income limitation subject to a make-up provision. Like a NICRUT, the terms of a NIMCRUT direct the Trustee to pay the lesser of the specified percentage of the value of the trust assets in that year or the net income actually earned by the trust in that year. However, if the payout is less than the specified percentage is paid out in one or more years, the accumulated “income deficits” will be made up in a subsequent year from the excess income above what is the specified percentage of the value of the trust assets in that year.
  3. A Flip CRUT permits the trust to begin its existence as a NICRUT or NIMCRUT, then “flip” into a standard CRUT on the occurrence of a specific triggering event, as provided in the trust document. The flip option is attractive when Donor wishes to donate to the CRUT illiquid or hard-to-market assets, such as real estate or closely held stock.

 

butterfly on finger

​Knowing if the CRT is a best choice for your charitable giving can be difficult, so I advise speaking with your trusted professional advisors to evaluate your situation. This concept can be confusing, so don’t hesitate to reach out for more information and explore how a charitable remainder trust could be beneficial to you. Feel free to contact me at any time at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or by phone at 515-371-6077.