“For of those to whom much is given much is required”—John F. Kennedy
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”—Luke (12:48)
Like most of us, I learned about “charity” from my family. My mother not only gave money to her favorite organizations, but also gave her time and energy. For almost sixty years, she has collected slightly used but very well-loved stuffed animals. After being dropped off at her house in large garbage bags, she (and oftentimes we kids and later grandchildren), sorted from big to small, and then which needed “surgery,” and which were ready to go to a new home. Mom has long lost count of how many animals and to how many countries they have been distributed but the thought of children around the country and world receiving a loveable gift always makes me smile.
My charitable education expanded when I met my wife, Lisa. Her father, Henri Landwirth (a Holocaust survivor who arrived in this country in the late 1940s), built a successful hotel business and then founded his first large scale charitable endeavor, Give Kids the World, a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida. This charity helps children with critical illnesses and their families. Henri also started a family foundation to continue his philanthropy (focusing on children, homelessness, and food insecurity) bringing his three adult children and their spouses into the process.
Recently, along with colleagues at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, I was able to complete a three-year certification course in Philanthropy through the American College. The Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) designation has expanded my knowledge and expertise from the perspective of both the funder and grant recipient.
The beauty of planning is that we can help identify what it takes to run your life and fund your future goals. Knowing when you are ahead of plan often helps drive more money and energy towards community and faith giving. Neither my mother nor my father-in-law woke up one day and “decided” they were going to be charitable. They didn’t just “start” to teach their children and grandchildren. Instead, just like all worthy endeavors, as they learned, they taught by both action and example.
We give to make the world a better place, but our tax code actively incentivizes charitable giving. Below is a sampling of strategies which, when implemented in accordance with your wealth plan and your other professional advisors (specifically CPA and estate attorney), can have community benefits and lowered tax consequences for you. We can bunch these strategies as follows:
1. Annual and Sustained Giving: We answer mail and phone solicitations by writing a check to a charity. Sometimes we donate items (Goodwill) or put cash in a donation container (Salvation Army). We also give on a systematic basis through work (United Way) or to sustain a membership (PBS annual drive). All these methods usually involve relatively modest dollars, and we try to deduct them on our taxes. With the recent changes increasing the standard deduction amount, most of these contributions will not affect total taxes because they and your other itemized deductions need to exceed a total of $25,100 for married couples or $12,550 for single taxpayers to be deductible.
2. Significant Planned Gifts: Over time we develop relationships with charitable organizations. As members of Rotary, as a volunteer, or by joining a Giving Circle (Women’s Giving Alliance), we get more deeply involved and interested in how charitable organizations operate and their specific needs and wants. This involvement often leads to conversations around giving more significant donations both in the near term, and potentially for multiple generations. Tax planning becomes more important as estate tax can be mitigated with giving strategies and current income taxes can also be dramatically reduced or eliminated. Tools to accomplish these goals include charitable lead or charitable remainder trusts, virtual and actual endowments, gift annuities, donor- advised funds and qualified charitable distributions (from your IRA after age 70 ½).
3. Lifetime Gifts/Bequests: In the last years of our lives, we tend to think more about the legacy we leave. How can we put our wealth in the best position to protect our children but also ensure that future generations benefit in accordance with our values and wishes?
The country and our local community have stepped up charitable giving over the last eighteen months. Giving USA reported that individuals in America gave $324 billion to charitable organizations in 2020 and the expectation is for an even greater amount in 2021. Including foundations, bequests and corporations, total giving was almost half a trillion dollars. With the need increasing, our ability to dream-build, plan and make charitable giving even more tax efficient for you and your families will continue to be part of our wealth management process.
Author: Glenn Ullmann, CDFA®, CAP®
Glenn Ullmann is President of Ullmann Wealth Partners. He founded the firm in 2002 and has overall responsibility for the firm's wealth management practice. He is passionate about educating clients and helping them achieve overall financial health.