To Save on Taxes, Make Charitable Gifts Before Year’s End


If one wishes to make charitable gifts as part of a tax-saving strategy, now is the time.

Although tax returns are not due until April 15, December is an excellent time to do a “dry run” on one’s tax return, to get an estimate of what one expects to pay in taxes, and to determine what charitable giving one may want to do before the end of the year, in order to reduce taxable income and lower one’s tax bill.

Newly retired individuals may benefit especially from such a dry run on their tax returns, as retirees are often unclear on how to manage taxes in retirement. If there are problems with withholding on pensions, Social Security or IRA withdrawals, then one may end up paying penalties and interest at tax time. IRA account owners can make use of a key strategy to deal with any underpaid taxes. It is possible for IRA owners to make a distribution and withhold the whole sum for taxes. The IRS will not consider it a late payment, but will treat it as taxes paid throughout the year.

Another IRA strategy for retirees is charitable IRA rollovers. After age 70 1/2, owners of traditional IRA accounts must begin taking required minimum distributions. However, they can make direct transfers of up to $100,000 from an IRA to qualified charities, and this counts toward the required minimum distribution, while not being counted as income.

Anyone wishing to make charitable contributions before the end of the year needs to be aware of the rules for timing different types of gifts so that they count for the current year. One may also wish to make gifts to friends and family members before the end of the year without triggering a gift tax. The limit is $14,000 for individual givers and $28,000 for married couples – to as many individuals as they wish.

When donating to a charity by check, the effective date of the donation is the date the check was mailed. When giving to non-charity donees, the gift is effective when the check clears.

Giving stock to a charity by certificate form is effective on the date of transfer in the records of the issuer.

Giving stock to a charity by electronic transfer is effective on the date the issuer shows that the stock is received, which can take several days. For non-charity donees, the gift is effective when the transfer is made on the books of the corporation, which can take weeks.

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