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 2019 taxes the standard deductions are:

  • $12,200 for single individuals
  • $12,200 for married, filing separately
  • $24,400 for married filing jointly
  • $18,350 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

charitable contribution money

Spring ushers in so many great things: baseball season, blooming flowers, and baby animals. But, it also brings tax season (which can be a metaphorical rain cloud or rainbow depending on your personal situation). The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed at the end of 2017, ushered in many federal changes that affect both estate planning and charitable giving. I’ve blogged about many of the provisions that can impact your estate planning (and why you should definitely review any existing estate plan), but what about some of the aspects of the new tax law that impact charitable giving? Because we’re not all tax attorneys or CPAs, let’s take this piece by piece and first explore the charitable deduction limitation increase for cash gifts and how it differs under federal and state law.

Differences Between Federal and State Tax Laws

While federal law has made several modifications, Iowa has not conformed to most of the recent changes to the charitable contribution deduction for state tax purposes. Quite obviously, this can cause confusion when strategically calculating planned giving.

Under federal tax law, the charitable deduction limitation, specifically for cash contributions to certain public charities and private foundations, has increased from 50% to 60% of an individual’s adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year.

This increase does not apply for Iowa tax purposes, however. If an individual’s federal deduction for cash contributions to qualifying public charities and public foundations exceeds 50% of the taxpayer’s AGI for the year, the individual must recalculate the charitable deduction to apply the 50% limitation for Iowa purposes.

If this is still a bit confusing, fear not. We can work out a plan so that you can meet your charitable giving goals in a tax-beneficial way for the tax years moving forward. I offer a free, no-obligation consult, so don’t hesitate to contact me.