The holiday season is customarily a time of giving gifts, whether to your favorite charity, family members or others. Some gifts even provide a variety of tax benefits.
But be wary; during the holiday season, you may receive phone calls, texts, emails, snail mail, or appeals on social networking sites for donations for various causes. However, some of these appeals may come from fraudsters and not legitimate charities. Unfortunately, this happens every holiday season.
Charitable contributions are deducted as part of a taxpayer’s itemized deductions on IRS Schedule A, except for the special 2020 and 2021 provisions that allow up to $300 ($600 for married taxpayers filing jointly for 2021) of cash donations as a deduction for non-itemizers.
Charitable contributions can take many forms, and some are unusual or misunderstood. The following includes issues that a taxpayer may encounter related to non-cash contributions.
To encourage charitable contributions to deserving qualified charities during these trying times, Congress has relaxed some of its restrictions related to how much a taxpayer can deduct as a charitable contribution in any given year.
Under normal circumstances, cash contributions are limited to 60% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). However, as has happened in the aftermath of prior disasters such as 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the CARES Act has increased the AGI limit to 100% for 2020. Any amount in excess of 100% can be carried over and deducted on subsequent years’ returns until the excess is used up or until five years have passed, whichever happens first.
The CARES Act also created an above-the-line charitable contribution for taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions. This will allow for a charitable deduction for cash contributions to qualified charities of up to $300 made in 2020.
While generally, the increased charitable contribution limitations related to natural disasters have applied only to contributions to relief efforts specific to the disaster, the only requirement for the CARES Act provisions is that the donations be in cash.
Ever since 2006, individuals age 70½ or older have been able to transfer up to $100,000 annually from their IRAs to qualified charities. These transfers are referred to as qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), and here is how this provision, if utilized, plays out on a tax return:
(1) The IRA distribution is excluded from income;
(2) The distribution counts toward the taxpayer’s required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year; and
(3) The distribution does NOT count as a charitable contribution.
At first glance, this may not appear to provide a tax benefit. However, by excluding the distribution, a taxpayer with itemized deductions lowers his or her adjusted gross income (AGI), which helps with other tax breaks (or punishments) that are pegged at AGI levels, such as for medical expenses, passive losses, and taxable Social Security income. In addition, non-itemizers essentially receive the benefit of a charitable contribution to offset the IRA distribution.