Taxpayers could get 2 for 1: The reward of giving and a deduction in tax liability.
A law passed at the end of 2020 modified the charitable contribution rules for 2021 tax returns. As a result, eligible individuals can claim an above-the-line deduction of up to $300 ($600 in the case of a joint return) for qualified charitable contributions made during 2021. An eligible individual is an individual who does not elect to itemize deductions. Thus, absent this provision, anyone taking the standard deduction would be ineligible to take a charitable contribution deduction. A qualified charitable contribution is a cash contribution paid in 2021 to an eligible charitable organization. Contributions of noncash property, such as securities, are not qualified contributions. Taxpayers, including married individuals filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities during 2021.
Individuals who itemize may generally claim a deduction for charitable contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations within certain limits. These limits typically range from 20% to 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI) and vary by the type of contribution and type of charitable organization. For instance, a cash contribution made by an individual to a qualifying public charity is generally limited to 60% of the individual’s AGI. Excess contributions may be carried forward for up to five tax years.
The new law permits electing individuals to apply an increased limit up to 100% of their AGI, for qualified contributions made during calendar-year 2021. The new law also permits C corporations to apply an increased limit of 25% of taxable income for charitable contributions of cash they make to eligible charities during calendar-year 2021. Normally, the maximum allowable deduction is limited to 10% of a corporation’s taxable income.
If you own stock with a fair market value of $1,000 that was purchased for $250 and your capital gains tax rate is 15 percent, the capital gains tax you would owe if you sold that stock is $113 ($750 gain x 15%). If you donate that stock instead of selling it, and are in the 24 percent tax bracket, your ordinary income deduction is worth $240 ($1,000 FMV x 24% tax rate). You also save the $113 in capital gains tax that you would otherwise pay if you sold the stock; that amount goes to the charity. Thus, the after-tax cost of the gift of appreciated stock is $647 ($1,000 – $240 – $113) compared to the after-tax cost of a donation of $1,000 cash which would be $760 ($1,000 – $240). However, it’s important to also keep in mind that tax deductions for contributions of appreciated long-term capital gain property may be limited to a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income depending on the amount of the deduction.
Finally, if you have an individual retirement account and are 70 1/2 years old and older, you are eligible to make a charitable contribution directly from your IRA. This is more advantageous than taking a distribution and making a donation to the charity that may or may not be deductible as an itemized deduction. If your itemized deductions, including the contribution, are less than your standard deduction, then you receive no tax benefit from taking a taxable distribution and donating that distribution. By making the donation directly from your IRA to a charity, you eliminate having the IRA distribution included in your income. This in turn reduces your adjusted gross income (AGI). And because various tax-related items, such as the medical expense deduction or the taxability of social security income or the 3.8 percent net investment income tax, are calculated based on your AGI, a reduced AGI can potentially increase your medical expense deduction, reduce the tax on social security income, and reduce any net investment income tax.
The IRS reminds individuals and businesses that special recordkeeping rules apply to any taxpayer claiming a charitable contribution deduction. Usually, this includes obtaining an acknowledgment letter from the charity before filing a return and retaining a cancelled check or credit card receipt for contributions of cash. For donations of property, additional recordkeeping rules apply, and may include filing a Form 8283 and obtaining a qualified appraisal in some instance.
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