top of page

Charitable Giving and the 2017 Tax Reform Act


Much of the information below comes from an article that Kevin Spellacy (Catholic Foundation Board Member) wrote for the Catholic Foundation’s Annual Report.  Click Here to see the full annual report.   


The 2017 Tax Reform Act eliminated personal exemptions for individual taxpayers and most deductions in exchange for nearly doubling the standard deduction. The 2018 standard deduction is $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. Taxpayers who are 65 or older have an extra $1300 of standard deduction.  Charitable contributions (such as contributions to parishes) are still deductible, but most, middle-income taxpayers will be better off using the standard deduction.


Almost all couples will have state tax and local property tax deductions which are capped at $10,000.  Some couples will have only one other deduction, that is, the charitable deduction. So, since the standard deduction is $24,000 or $26,600 if a couple is over 65, the question for those couples is whether their  annual charitable contributions  exceed $14,000 ,or if applicable,  $16,600.  If a couples’ expected annual charitable contributions are less than these numbers, they may be able to save a few tax dollars with some tax planning.  


The first idea calls for the couple to “double up” or “bunch” their contributions into a single tax year. For example, if a couple’s total itemized deductions are $20,000 (consisting of $10,000 of state and property tax and $10,000 of charitable deductions), instead of making their charitable contributions during 2019, they can accelerate their 2019 contributions into December of 2018. Alternatively, they may choose to delay their contributions from 2018 into 2019. If the couple accelerates their 2019 contributions into 2018, their doubled up $20,000 of charitable contributions will cause their total itemized contributions, including the $10,000 of state and local property tax deduction, to exceed the $24,000 standard deduction. The $6000 of “excess” itemized deductions over the standard deduction results in tax savings for 2018. In 2019, they take the $24,000 standard deduction, which is a lot more than their $10,000 state and local tax deduction number.


A parishioner can also "bunch" two or more years of contributions into a single tax year by starting a Donor Advised Fund.  A Donor Advised Fund allows a person to take a tax deduction now and make distributions from the fund over multiple years. 


If a married couple normally makes $10,000 in charitable contributions each year along with their $10,000 state and local taxes, they would always be better off taking the standard deduction.  However, the couple could deposit $20,000 or a larger sum now into a Donor Advised Fund, and itemize their deductions in 2018.  In future years (2019, 2020…) they can make charitable distributions from the Donor Advised Fund until it is gone and take the standard deduction in those years.  The distributions from a Donor Advised Fund can be made to any charitable organization, not just the church.  The Catholic Foundation can set up Donor Advised Funds and I would be happy to discuss them in more detail. 


A different opportunity takes advantage of the IRA Charitable Rollover law, which is available for taxpayers who have attained the age of 70½. Anyone in that age group with an IRA knows that he or she must draw annual Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from the IRA, which increases the taxpayer’s income tax. The IRA Charitable Rollover law allows the taxpayer to satisfy her RMD by arranging with his or her IRA custodian to make a direct transfer of the RMD to any of multiple charities, which allows the taxpayer to legally avoid the extra income tax. Since the IRA Charitable Rollover avoids the recognition of income, rather than giving rise to a charitable deduction, the taxpayer can take advantage of the substantially larger standard deduction. With some advance planning, a taxpayer can use his or her IRA Required Minimum Distribution to fund all or part of the charitable contributions which he or she would have made anyway, take the standard deduction, and possibly save thousands in income taxes. 

bottom of page