About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area, that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual financial planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
As Americans, we love giving back. In 2017 alone, we shelled out $410.02 billion in charitable donations - accounting for 2.1 percent of the GDP.1 With the 2020 holiday season officially upon us, it’s no surprise that our giving efforts are likely ramping up. And while donating to charities is an integral component of your core values, it can also be an important, strategic play in lowering your tax obligation.
This year, charitable contributions can count even more toward lowering tax bills for some. Thanks to the CARES Act, which passed in late March 2020 amidst the coronavirus pandemic, your giving could stretch even further this tax season.
How Is This Year’s Charitable Contribution Exemption Different?
Thanks to the CARES Act, filers will be allowed to take a $300 above-the-line charitable giving deduction.2 This is significant because, typically, you would have to itemize deductions in order to deduct charitable donations from your taxes.
With changes introduced through the CARES Act, this above-the-line deduction can be used for those who choose to take the standard deduction. As a reminder, the standard deduction for 2020 is $12,400 for single and married filing separately, $24,800 for married filing jointly and $18,650 for head of households.3
It’s important to note that the $300 limit is per filing unit, whether your filing single or jointly.
Who Does This Change Benefit?
This CARES Act exemption is not available for those who itemize their deductions, it’s only for those who are using the standard deduction on their 2020 tax returns.
This is significant because, historically, anyone taking a standard deduction has not been able to reduce their adjusted gross income (AGI) by claiming charitable contributions.
Nearly nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify for this new tax deduction. In tax-year 2018, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, more than 134 million taxpayers claimed the standard deduction, just over 87% of all filers, according to the IRS.
What Donations Count Toward the CARES Act Deduction?
Just as any other charitable contribution deducted from your taxes, eligible donations must be made to qualified 501(c)(3) organizations or any other qualified organization as outlined in section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.2
What About Regular Charitable Contributions?
In the past, those who itemize their deductions were able to deduct up to 60 percent of their AGI in charitable contributions. Those who are extremely philanthropic may be interested to know that this limit has been raised to 100 percent.4
If you were so inclined to do so, you could donate all of your income and deduct 100 percent of it - leaving you with a $0 tax bill.
This relief benefit is more subtle than other aspects of the CARES Act, but it can still provide financial relief to families. This change gives families and individuals an opportunity to lower their AGI without needing to itemize deductions - something that low- to moderate-income families may not typically do. It incentivizes Americans to give charitably this season, which is especially important at a time when so many people and organizations are in need.
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a business, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals in their 30s and 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. If you're looking for guidance on Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments we can help.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio feel free to send me an e-mail.
On the first Thursday of every month I send out a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks to help you manage your finances. The December Newsletter is filled with information about Employee Stock Options, Budgeting Resolutions, and Tips to Maintain a Work-Life Balance.
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