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Tax consequences of charitable donations vary by method

My husband and I are seniors. We want to make a sizable donation to our church. We can either make one donation or break it into a few smaller donations over time, depending on the tax benefits. What’s the best way to make the donation(s) for tax purposes?

It really depends on your situation. There are many variables to consider.

Ideally, you’d make a major donation in a year when the deduction will help offset a large tax bill. For example, let’s say you plan to sell your house next year, and your taxable profit will significantly exceed the $500,000 exclusion you can claim as a married couple filing jointly. “That would be a good year in which to make a substantial donation,” says Barry C. Picker, a Brooklyn tax accountant.

Your annual deduction for charitable donations can’t exceed 50 percent of your adjusted gross income; you can carry the excess forward for up to five years. But if you’re over 70 1⁄2 years old, you have an additional option, notes Picker: You can donate up to $100,000 of your annual required minimum distribution to charity. This “qualified charitable donation” (QCD) must go directly from your IRA to the charity. A QCD isn’t tax deductible, but it isn’t added to your income — so it doesn’t affect your other charitable deductions, and it’s not included in the calculation that determines taxation of your Social Security benefits.

Another consideration is whether to donate appreciated stock that you’ve owned for more than a year rather than cash. If you give $10,000 of stock originally purchased for $4,000, for example, you can claim a $10,000 deduction and avoid a capital-gains tax on $6,000 of appreciation.

THE BOTTOM LINE Consult a tax professional before deciding how to make substantial deductible gifts.



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