Q: December is when I make most of my charitable contributions for the year. What do I need to keep in mind so I am set when it's time to file my 2014 income tax returns?
Karen L. Piel, JD, CPA, CFRE
Charitable Gift Planning Officer
Marshfield Clinic Development
A: Great question. Charitable gifts are a great way to support programs that are meaningful to you and also provide an opportunity to honor or remember people who have impacted your life. In addition to feeling good about the difference you are making, you should take advantage of the tax benefits afforded to you.
Here are some things to keep in mind with respect to your 2014 gifts:
The gift must be made in 2014. Gifts by check must be in the mail with a postmark no later than December 31, 2014. For credit card gifts, the gift must be processed by December 31. If making a credit card gift by mail, make sure to allow enough time for the mail to arrive and the gift to be processed by December 31. For transfers from brokerage accounts, the transfer to the charitable organization must be made by December 31, so it is necessary to make the transfer request several days in advance.
You need to have a receipt if your gift is $250 or more. The IRS requires that charitable gifts be accompanied by a written acknowledgment from the charitable organization for such gifts. For non-cash gifts greater than $500, you may also need to file IRS Form 8283.
Not every "gift" is a gift.
Purchasing goods at fair market value and buying raffle tickets are not charitable gifts. If you purchase an item in an auction at more than its fair market value, only the portion above the fair market value will qualify for a tax deduction. Also, pledges to make gifts are not tax-deductible gifts. When you make the pledge payments, you will qualify for a tax deduction in the year of the payment.
Consider making gifts from something other than cash. Some assets provide additional tax benefits when given as charitable gifts rather than giving cash. Gifting appreciated stock to avoid the capital gains tax is a great example. Another example is gifting directly from an IRA for those over age 70½. Please check with your tax advisor to see if this option is available in 2014.
Talk to your advisors. Discuss your charitable giving intentions with your tax and financial advisors. They can assist you in making tax-wise
gift decisions in 2014.