Hey everyone! A major sale is likely to occur next year so you better rush to buy right now! What? Well, a tax law change isn’t quite a sale, but the expected drop in tax rates makes year-end choices more important than ever. Let me just focus on one aspect — charity.
There are a host of financial reasons to increase your charity before year-end. With a Republican Congress and president, the signal for lower taxes could not be more clear. With charity, more is going to be better. Here’s why:
When tax rates drop, so does the value of your deductions. This one is easy. If you are in a lower tax bracket, the government effectively reduces its subsidy for charitable gifts. If you are in a 28 percent bracket, the government pays for 28 cents of each dollar you gift by reducing your tax burden. If your tax bracket drops to 25 percent, that falls to 25 cents.
If you itemize deductions this year, you may not do so next year. Everyone who files a tax return gets a standard deduction (roughly $12,600 for couples). If you pay state income tax, property taxes, have a mortgage, and give to charity, you probably opt to itemize your deductions. What’s important is that only those amounts above the $12,600 really matter. President-elect Trump and House Speaker Ryan each have proposals to increase this standard deduction ($30,000 with Trump, $25,000+ with Ryan). The value of the deduction may be reduced for you next year because you either may not itemize or might barely be able to do so. Grab that deduction while you can.
If you pay a lot in state income taxes and charity, your deductions may be capped. This is where the Trump and Ryan plans differ a bit. Trump wants to put a limit on deductions; Ryan wants to only allow deductions for mortgage interest and charity. Why risk it? Make your contributions today.
If you are over age 70 ½, use your required minimum distribution from your IRA for charity. This is one way you could delay your gift into next year because it will likely avoid any caps or itemization issues.
If you know you want to give, but don’t know where to give it, set up a donor-advised fund either through your brokerage firm or community foundation. The money stays in the fund until you request how it is to be used.
If the changes don’t occur until 2018, no big deal, you only accelerated something that you were going to do anyway. For maximum benefit, buy before the sale.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.