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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Charitable Strategies for 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by the president in December of 2017, affects the income tax of both businesses and individuals and the federal estate tax on the estates of certain high-net-worth individuals.

Some highlights:

  • The tax rates for corporations and certain pass-through businesses are significantly reduced.
  • Income-tax rates are lower for most individuals.
  • The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • The personal exemption is eliminated.
  • Some deductions, such as those for state and local taxes and mortgage interest, are limited.
  • The federal estate-tax exemption for 2018 increases to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for couples.
  • The annual gift-tax exclusion increases from $14,000 to $15,000 in 2018.

Except for increasing the deduction ceiling on cash gifts from 50% to 60% of AGI, the effect on charitable giving is more indirect than direct. The deduction of charitable gifts by itemizers and the gift instruments have been preserved. The income-tax savings from charitable gifts will generally be somewhat smaller because of the lower tax rates and because a larger number of individuals will not itemize deductions and thus will not realize tax savings from their gifts.

Here are some charitable strategies to consider for this year:

  • Increase your charitable gifts so you can benefit from itemizing your deductions.
    • If the total of your itemized deductions is going to be close to the new higher standard deduction amount, you might consider giving a little more to charity in 2018 so that your income-tax charitable deduction helps you exceed the standard deduction amount and you can itemize and receive the tax benefits of doing so.
  • Make gifts of appreciated securities.
    • You can still save capital-gain taxes by giving appreciated securities that you have owned for more than a year, a key part of tax law that has not changed.
  • Make retirement-plan gifts.
    • A simple and smart way to make a charitable gift is through retirement-plan beneficiary designations. While your loved ones are subject to paying income tax on retirement-plan gifts they receive, charities such as ours are not. Thus you can help loved ones save taxes by giving them other assets and making retirement-plan gifts to charity.
  • Make an IRA rollover gift.
    • Those over the age of 70½ who have not yet taken the required distribution from their IRA might ask their IRA administrator to make a direct tax-free transfer to charity. The ability to make such transfers was not affected by the new law.
  • Make a gift that costs nothing now.
    • A bequest in your will or trust continues to be a way to make a significant gift that costs you nothing now. There are many ways to design your bequest in order to best meet your family priorities and charitable objectives.
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