Famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde said, “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Here are a few of my best ideas about stretching your charitable dollar.

Why not give now, rather than later?

Let me tell you about my imaginary friend, Aideen O’Murphy. Aideen intends to donate to charity eventually, at death through her will and estate plan. But why not give now? Aideen can have more say about use of gifts while she’s alive, and also feel the joy that comes with helping worthy causes. There are also positive tax benefits for Aideen to give now rather than later.

Faith and begorrah: double federal tax benefit

Gifts of long-term capital assets, such as stock, real estate, and farmland [where leprechauns may live!], can receive a double federal tax benefit. First, Aideen can receive an immediate charitable deduction off federal income tax, equal to the fair market value of the stock, real estate, or farmland.

Second, assuming Aideen owned the asset for more than one year at the time the asset is donated, Aideen can avoid long-term capital gain taxes which would have been owed if the asset was sold.

Let’s look at a concrete example to make this clearer. Aideen owns shares of stock in Shamrock, Inc. [let’s pretend it’s a publicly traded U.S. stock] with a fair market value of $10,000. She wants her stock to help her favorite causes. Which would be better for Aideen – to sell the stock and donate the cash, or give the stock directly to her favorite charities? Assume the stock was originally purchased at $2,000 (basis), Aideen’s income tax rate is 39.6%, and her capital gains tax rate is 20%.

Donating cash versus donating long-term capital gain assets  Donating cash proceeds after sale of stock Donating stock
Value of gift $10,000 $10,000
Federal income tax charitable deduction ($3,960) ($3,960)
Federal capital gains tax savings $0 ($1,600)
Out-of-pocket cost of gift $6,040 $4,440


Again, a gift of long-term capital assets, such as stocks, real estate, or farmland, made during lifetime, can be doubly beneficial. Aideen can receive a federal income tax charitable deduction equal to the fair market value of the asset. Aideen can also avoid capital gains tax.

In Iowa, however, there is even more potential tax benefit. Aideen can also receive a 25% state tax credit for gifts made during lifetime, lowering the after tax cost of charitable gifts even further.

Saints preserve us: 25% Iowa tax credit

Under the Endow Iowa Tax Credit program, gifts made during lifetime can be eligible for a 25% tax credit. There are three basic requirements to qualify.

First, the gift must be given to, or receipted by, a qualified Iowa community foundation (there’s a local community foundation near you).

Second, the gift must be made to an Iowa charity. For example, to receive Endow Iowa tax credits, Aideen couldn’t give directly to National Public Radio, but she could give to Iowa Public Radio.

Third, the gift must be endowed – that is, a permanent gift. Under Endow Iowa, no more than 5% of the gift can be granted each year – the rest is held by, and invested by, your community foundation. Clearly, this final requirement is a major restriction. Still, in exchange for a 25% state tax credit, it must be seriously considered by Aideen and other Iowa donors.

If Aideen makes an Endow Iowa qualifying gift, the tax savings are very dramatic. There are potentially huge tax benefits for donating long-term capital gain assets, such as stocks, real estate, and farmland, while claiming the Endow Iowa Tax Credit:

Value of gift $10,000
Federal income tax charitable deduction ($3,960)
Federal capital gains tax savings ($1,600)
Endow Iowa Tax Credit ($2,500)
Out-of-pocket cost of gift $1,940


Note well Aideen’s significant tax savings. In this scenario, by giving stock during lifetime, Aideen receives $3,960 as a federal charitable deduction, avoids $1,600 of capital gains taxes, and gains a state tax credit for $2,500, for a total tax savings of $8,600. Put another way, Aideen made a gift of $10,000 to her favorite charity, but the out of pocket cost of the gift to her was less than $2,000.

This is a great deal for Aideen and a great deal for Aideen’s favorite causes. But could anything go wrong with this scenario? There are four areas of caution.

 Cautionary Notes

The federal income tax charitable deduction is capped. Generally, the federal charitable deduction for gifts of stock, real estate, and farmland is limited to 30% of adjusted gross income. A taxpayer may, however, carry forward any unused deduction amount an additional five years.

Additionally, records are required to obtain a federal income tax charitable deduction. The more the charitable deduction, the more detailed the recording requirements. For example, to receive a charitable deduction for certain gifts of more than $5,000, you need a “qualified appraisal” by a “qualified appraiser,” two terms with very specific meanings to the IRS. You need to engage the right professionals to be sure all requirements are met.

Endow Iowa Tax Credits are also capped – both statewide and per individual. Iowa sets aside a pool of money for Endow Iowa Tax Credits, and it’s available on a first-come, first-served basis. In 2014, approximately $6 million in tax credits was available annually through Endow Iowa. So encourage clients to submit applications now, as tax credits often run out towards year end. Endow Iowa also has a cap per individual. Tax credits of 25 percent 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.

Finally, all individuals, families, businesses, and farms are unique and have unique tax issues. This article is presented for informational purposes only, not as tax advice or legal advice. Consult a professional for personal advice.

Gordon Fischer Law Firm, P.C. is dedicated to promoting and maximizing charitable giving in Iowa. Gordon can be reached by phone at 515-371-6077; by email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com; and through his website at www.gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

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