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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.

christmas words giving

Thanks for the reading the 25 Days of Giving series…almost as good as this whiskey advent calendar, am I right? Each day through Christmas, 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.

Sure, info on tax incentives is important and details on donating stock are interesting, but sometimes just a good quote has the power to spark giving. According to this study, 31% of ALL online charitable giving in the U.S. happens in the month of December! If you’re a nonprofit looking to increase end-of-year donations or even a donor seeking to inspire your friends and family to give charitably, these quotes could come in handy.

The true meaning of Christmas? Giving.

giving snowflake quote

Giving makes you happy.

Happiest giving quote

Not giving is not an option for the causes you care about.

Doing nothing giving quote

Giving while you’re living means making a difference in the future.

Real generosity

Giving can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Enlist an expert to help you meet your giving goals.

Aristotle giving quoteGiving is a privilege

Rockfeller giving quote

Giving “costs nothing.”

giving quote free

What you give is what you get.

get out of this world giving

Giving means a lasting legacy.giving immortal quote

If you want to share one of these quotes, don’t hesitate to tag Gordon Fischer Law Firm on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

heart in pages of book

Welcome to the newest post in the 25 Days of Giving series. Have questions or a topic  related to charitable giving you want covered as a part of the series? Contact us!

You want your favorite charity to be wildly successful. Whether you’re working for the nonprofit as staff, serving on the board of directors, or assisting as a donor or volunteer, you want your nonprofit to have every chance to reach its goals and objectives. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) strongly encourages nonprofits to adopt specific governance policies to limit potential abuse, protect against vulnerabilities, and prevent activities that would go beyond permitted nonprofit activities. The IRS also audits nonprofits, just as it audits companies and individuals, and having these policies in place can only help you should you be audited. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, having solid policies and procedures in place will provide foundation for soliciting, accepting, and facilitating charitable donations. 

Each nonprofit is unique, and accordingly policies and procedures needed will vary for each. For instance, a non-operating private foundation will likely need a different set of documents than a public charity. However, most nonprofits will want, at the very least, to consider having the following policies in place. 

Articles of Incorporation

Articles of incorporation are necessary to even form a nonprofit corporation; the document is filed with the state and accompanied by a filing fee. This policy can be known by other monikers as “certificate of incorporation,” “articles of organization,” or “charter document.” Think of this as the constitution of the organization. While it can be fairly short, there are some necessary elements in the articles that are required for federal tax-exempt status. Those elements include a statement of purpose, legal address, emphasis on not-for-profit activities, duration, names and address of director(s), and a dissolution clause, among others. You may want to check out the IRS’ sample charter.

Board Roles and Responsibilities

Nonprofit board members are generally tasked with two major responsibilities of support and governance. A board’s rules and responsibilities document should outline the requirements and responsibilities of board members. Some examples of basic components include fundraising participation, determining the organization’s mission and direction, selecting and regularly evaluating the nonprofit director/CEO, and protection of public interest. A policy regarding board roles and responsibilities should encourage nothing short of ethical and legal integrity within board members.

boardroom chairs

Bylaws

If you’ve ever been part of any board or committee, you’ve definitely heard reference to the bylaws and received a copy upon joining the organization. Nonprofit bylaws serve as the internal operating methods and rules that specify things like the election process of directors, employee roles within the nonprofit, and operational manners of meetings. Specific language in the bylaws is not required by federal tax law, but some states may require nonprofits to have written bylaws to be considered tax exempt. This document can most often be used to resolve uncertainty between board members and takes the guesswork out of operations.

Code of Ethics

Just as it sounds, a code of ethics document puts in place a set of guiding principles for behavior, decisions making, and activities of those involved in the nonprofit, including board members, employees, and volunteers. While principles innate to your organization such as honesty, equity, integrity, and transparency may be understood by all involved, this formal adoption allows those involved to make a formal commitment to ethical actions and decisions. Sometimes this document is known as a “statement of values,” or “code of conduct.” Many organizations post their code on their website to demonstrate accountability and transparency.

Compensation Policy

Competitive compensation is just as important for employees of nonprofits as it is for for-profit employees. Having a set policy in place that objectively establishes salary ranges for positions, updated job descriptions, relevant salary administration, and performance management is used to establish equality and equity in compensation practices. A statement of compensation philosophy and strategy which explains to current and potential employees and board members how compensation supports the organization’s mission can be included in the compensation policy.

Confidentiality

A nonprofit’s board members have a duty of confidentiality due to their fiduciary obligation to the organization. This duty is there regardless of any written policy or not, but it’s certainly a best practice to clarify and explain why and how confidentiality is important to the specific organization. A confidentiality policy can include elements such as the following:

  • definitions of what matters are considered confidential
  • determination to whom the policy applies
  • statement that board members do not make any public statements to the press without authorization
  • a process by which confidential material may be authorized for disclosure

secret mouth

Conflict of Interest

This is arguably one of the more essential policies a nonprofit board should adopt. A conflict of interest policy should do two important things:

  • require board members with a conflict (or a potential conflict) to disclose it, and
  • exclude individual board members from voting on matters in which there is a conflict.

Note the IRS Form 990 asks whether the nonprofit has such a policy as well as how the organization manages and determines board members who have a conflict of interest. This policy is all too important as conflicts of interest that are not successfully and ethically managed can result in “intermediate sanctions” against both the organization and the individual with the conflicts.

Document Retention

A document retention policy doesn’t mean that EVERY piece of paper and digital report should be kept for a specific duration. But, consider if a document is unknowingly tossed by a nonprofit employee and is later needed in a legal matter. That can cause irrevocable damage. So, ensure all board members, staffers, and volunteers are trained and have a copy of the document retention policy, which should clarify what types of documents should be retained, how they should be filed, and for what duration. This policy should also outline proper deletion/destruction techniques.

Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is another one of the more common nonprofit documents. A quality handbook should clearly communicate employment policies and enforce at-will provisions to all employees. Employment laws are complicated and complex. An employee handbook written/reviewed by a licensed attorney is a good legal step toward avoiding employment disputes. (Yes, just as you need a lawyer to write your estate plan, you’ll need a lawyer to craft/review your employee handbook.) Review your employee handbook regularly, as an out-of-date or poorly written handbook can leave the organization open to employment ambiguity and conflicts.

Financial Policies and Procedures

This document specifically addresses guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting financial status of the organization, managing funds, and developing financial goals. The financial management policies and procedures should also outline the budgeting process, investments reporting, what accounts may be maintained by the nonprofit, and when scheduled auditing will take place.

Endowment

This resolution concerns funds (and the interest from these funds) that are kept long term. It  generally aids the organization’s overall operations. An endowment policy should consider the purpose of the endowment, how the endowment will benefit the mission of the nonprofit, management practices of the endowment, disbursement policies, and investment strategy. (This blog post from GuideStar offers five steps to starting an endowment.)

Gift Acceptance

Gift acceptance is yet another policy the IRS considers to be a best practice for any tax-exempt nonprofit, and the gift acceptance policy can help set acceptance policies for both donors and the board/staffers. There is no federal legal requirement, but this policy does allow you to check “Yes” on Form 990. If well-written and applied across the organization, the policy can help the organization to kindly reject a non-cash gift that can carry extraneous liabilities and obligations the organization is not readily able to manage.

Outstretched hand

Investments

One way a Board of Directors can fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to the organization is through investing assets to further the nonprofit’s goals. But, before investment vehicles are invested in, the organization should have an investment policy in place to define who is accountable for the investment decisions. The policy should also offer guidance on activities of growing/protecting the investments, earning interest, and maintaining access to cash if necessary. Many organizations hire a professional financial advisor or investment manager to implement investments and offer advice. This person’s role can be accounted for in the investment policy.

Whistleblower

Nonprofits, along with all corporations, are prohibited from retaliating against employees who call out, draw attention to, or “blow the whistle” against employer practices. A whistleblower policy should set a process for complaints to be addressed and include protection for whistleblowers. Ultimately this policy can help insulate your organization from the risk of state and federal law violation and encourage sound, swift responses of investigation and solutions to complaints. Don’t just take it from me, the IRS also considers this an incredibly helpful policy:

“A whistleblower policy encourages staff and volunteers to come forward with credible information on illegal practices or violations of adopted policies of the organization, specifies that the organization will protect the individual from retaliation, and identifies those staff or board members or outside parties to whom such information can be reported. (Instructions to Form 990)

Policies = Powerful

While these documents may sound like a lot of work, the time and energy you place into ensuring your nonprofit is set up for success will pay off in the long run by saving you legal and IRS fees, internal conflict, violations, and compliance issues. Plus, you can enlist a qualified nonprofit attorney to do the leg work for you! 

You may say, “My organization already has a great set of policies in place!” Which is great. But, you should continuously update them as needed/wanted. A policy from 2002 may have been perfect at the time, but could be in dire need of updates.

I’d advise making policies the main subject of a board meeting to review what policies have been adopted, which policies need revisions, and which policies you’re missing altogether. If you’re not sure where to start, or how policies should be drafted, read, or enacted, I would be happy to offer you a free one-hour consultation. You can also take me up on my 10 for 990 policy special.

I’m here to assist in drafting or revising your set of nonprofit policies, so don’t hesitate to contact me via email or phone (515-371-6077). We’ll schedule your free one-hour consultation and make a plan to set your organization up for success!

(Note this article is provided for general information only and not intended as legal advice for your specific nonprofit organization. Again, please contact me to discuss your organization’s unique needs.)

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.

Girl hanging ornaments on tree

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

Celebrating the holidays with children, be it family or friends’ children, can be a wonderful opportunity to “see” the magic and delight of the season through their experiences. The season of giving is also an opportune time to teach and reinforce the importance of a different kind of giving beyond the wish lists for Santa and filled stockings. Consider these few tips when teaching the future generation of philanthropists about why charitable giving is important, and how to practice charity during December…and all year round.

Think Tradition

holiday themed cupcakes

Just like decorating cookies, trimming the tree, singing carols, or any other one of your family traditions, charitable giving can be made into an annual family affair. Incorporate this in a way that works for you and your family. One idea is instead of the traditional advent calendar in which children would usually get a small toy or candy each day give some loose change or “gift” a charitable activity you can do together. For the money, the child can collect and then then at the end of the advent period have then donate their money to a cause they care about.

Talk About It Together

Similarly to how I counsel my estate planning clients on the importance of speaking with family members about decisions for their estate, it’s important to actually talk about charitable giving as a family. Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy conducted a study and found that children whose parents talk with them about donating are 20% more likely to give to charity than kids who do not have those conversations with their parents.

snowmen figurines

Visit local charitable organizations together. (Or, if that’s not accessible at least go online to the charities’ websites.) Introduce your child to what the charity does and why it’s important. Organizations whose missions align with your child’s interests are a good place to start. For instance, the kid who loves animals may be interested to know that the local animal rescue helps animals when they get lost or hurt.

Practice What You Preach: Volunteer Time

Charitable giving doesn’t just have to be monetary. When possible set up volunteer activities you can do together. However, volunteer opportunities for children can be limited, so don’t be afraid to get creative. If your kiddo loves riding her bike around the park, plan a day where you pick up trash around the park. If your son loves to help you plant flowers, see if he can help out at the community garden. Of course, youth organizations like scouting programs (for example), can be a great opportunity for your child to put charitable work into action. Kids, just like most of us, will better be able to “see” the impact of charitable giving when they experience it firsthand. (Note: volunteer time is not tax deductible, but out-of-pocket expenses associated with volunteer work are!)

child in front of stocking

Shared Generosity

From your year-end giving charitable dollars, set aside a portion specifically for the kids to decide how to allocate. Have them brainstorm on with you and provide them with any suggestions/charities to match the causes they care about. You could also try out a matching program. Explain to them that every dollar they save throughout the year and want to donate to charity, you’ll match. If you need a colorful visual explain with Monopoly money.

 How do you involve your entire family with charitable giving? I would love to hear your ideas. Remember, this doesn’t have to be your own children. If you’re a teacher or simply an involved aunt/uncle or grandparent you can still instill in children the important philosophy of why giving can be the best gift of all.
Questions about your own year-end charitable giving? Contact me by email or phone (515-371-6077) at any time. 
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.

wreath on the door

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 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.

farmland bargain sale

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 cap. 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 unique legal and tax issues. Consult your own professional advisor for personal advice. Questions? Contact me at any time via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or by phone (515-371-6077).

25 days of giving - decemer 2018

It’s not a cheese, wine, or bath products advent calendar…but beginning December 1 through Christmas Day the GoFisch blog will feature a new piece related to giving. ‘Tis the season for giving and the “25 Days” posts will feature information important for both nonprofit executives and donors.

What I want to know is: what questions about charitable giving do you have? From specific to general, email them to me at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

Remember, no matter what winter holiday you celebrate, all have the power to make a positive impact through charitable giving!

 

thanksgiving thankful

I would like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you have the opportunity to spend quality time with your loved ones. I’ve taken a much needed moment this holiday to take a step back and think about all GFLF has to be thankful for. I owe so much to my clients, friends, and family who have helped make this year a successful one.

grateful quote

Here are just a few of the things GFLF has to be exceedingly grateful for:

But, really, this is a short list—the tip of the turkey, if you will—of what GFLF is perpetually thankful for.

Wishing you full bellies and hearts today,

Gordon Fischer