estate tax

It’s started…..

Tax reform – yikes! Always supposed to simplify but always ends up being more complicated!

If you are a nonprofit/fundraiser, you should be concerned. Presidential proposals in the past have been very frightening to nonprofits who rely mainly on tax deductible gifts. So, what are we facing?

  1. Firstly, we are a long way from anything actually happening but we do have some details on the Administration’s’ proposed plans.
  2. Good news – It’s official – the income tax deduction isn’t being tampered with.
  3. Not sure news – the standard deduction would jump a lot (ie… 2016 for married joint return is $12,600 – would jump to $24,000). In other words, many more people will no longer “itemize” on their tax returns – maybe this deincentivizes those from giving because their gifts no longer get them a cash rebate?  More on this below.
  4. Also not sure news – no more death tax.  Ha ha. Last time a president fulfilled his promise to eliminate the estate tax (2001), he actually increased it in many places and it almost swung back to huge rates in 2011. In any case, the roller coaster years of ending estate tax to the snap back year to a decent fix actually didn’t impact planned giving numbers! I don’t think there will be an impact on bequest dollars to charities but I do think I may be very busy dealing with whatever cockamanie scheme they come up with (ie…return of carry-over basis 🙂

Back to #3 – I already saw a Forbes article claiming that the increase in the standard deduction “could decimate charitable giving.” Click here for that article but please read my response!

I totally disagree with that article’s point.

Here is another quote from the article:

The House tax reform blueprint said that a $24,000 standard deduction for joint filers would reduce the percentage of American taxpayers who itemize and take the charitable deduction from 25% (one out of four taxpayers) to 5% (one out of 20).”

Sounds catastrophic except for the fact that most charities receive 80% or more of their fundraising dollars from the top 20% echelon of their donors – and those 20% will likely continue to itemize.  Trust me, your major gift donors have more than $24,000 in itemized deductions! I have way more than that!!! (and I’m not anywhere near being a major gift donor – nowhere near it in fact;(

Anyway, take a look at these charts from my training programs:

One Day Boot Camp - AM Session 1 Introduction and OverviewOne Day Boot Camp - AM Session 1 Introduction and Overview 2

Americans give consistently – regardless.  2% of disposable personal – 2% of the economy.  The dips happen when people are poorer – not upset about taxes.  SO, the administration argument that people doing better in general is better for nonprofit fundraising is TRUE!!!!  Put more money in their pockets and they will give more.  This next slide on total US giving – inflation adjusted since 1975 – makes that point especially in light of the above slides. Giving over those years just went up and up but the percentages of disposable wealth and GDP stayed flat!!

One Day Boot Camp - AM Session 1 Introduction and Overview 3

Ok, so how could charities get hurt by the increase of the standard deduction? Well, older people might be impacted who don’t have all of the deductions that younger folks have.  They may start getting less benefit from their charitable giving – that is true.

Ah, older meaning age 70.5 and up – just happens that at that age, you are eligible to make direct IRA rollover gifts – no taxes.  This is already a great deal for seniors who don’t itemize and if this change happens, you need to step up the IRA rollover marketing!

Maybe we can convince the government to allow direct rollover IRA giving from age 59.5!! That would be really cool.

We’ve just begun with the big tax changes. Stay tuned!

Pick your poison – Trump or Ryan tax proposals

Image result for trump ryan tax plan

I hate jumping into tax policy debates too early – Trump isn’t President yet and we really have no idea how things will shake out with him and Congress, or whether Democrats will somehow block things (hard to see that as they are not in majority!).

But, a big but….  I just took a look at a good article on CNN/Money (looks pretty nonpartisan to me) comparing Trump’s tax reform ideas with Paul Ryan and House’s – pretty fascinating and a little scary for nonprofits.

I point you to one huge impact area for nonprofits – here is the direct quote from the article:

Kill most itemized deductions

The House plan would eliminate all itemized deductions except those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Trump’s plan, by contrast, keeps itemized deductions, but caps their total value at $100,000 for singles or $200,000 for joint filers, a more costly proposal.

Wow. Read that carefully.  The House plan would be AWESOME for nonprofits! Charitable deduction left along with mortgage interest!!!  No other deductions!

But, then read the second paragraph carefully (Trump’s idea): ouch!!  Capping deductions? What a DISASTER that would be for nonprofits. Remember: the rule of thumb is 80% of charitable funds come from 20% of the donors (or something like that).   Maybe this would be good for planned giving (sorry nonprofits, I know you don’t want to exchange today’s $ for tomorrow’s planned gifts)?

Here is another quote from the article that deserves some attention:

Cut investment income taxes

Today, individuals pay up to 20% on their long-term capital gains and dividends. And their interest is taxed at ordinary income rates — so, up to 39.6%.

House Republicans want to change that. Under their plan investors would deduct half of their gains, dividends and interest. That effectively reduces the top rate on that income to either 6%, 12.5% or 16.5%, depending on one’s tax bracket.

Trump would largely leave the current investment income tax rates in place.

Cutting capital gains taxes is not good for planned giving, plain and simple.  That extra incentive – especially when it was at 20% or more in the 1990s – fueled planned gifts like CRTs and CGAs.  The rates have been low since 2001 and both types are on the downslide.

I’ll take Trump on this one!

Lastly, what about the estate tax?

Kill taxes Republicans rail against

House Republicans want to repeal the estate tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax and key Obamacare taxes.

Trump is on board with all three repeals, but his plan would tax people’s capital gains above a certain amount when they die.

I’m fine getting rid of the AMT and Obamacare. Not fine getting rid of the estate tax.  It is the easiest tax to avoid.  If it affects you, you are forced to think about whether you want to leave a charitable legacy (and still leave your heirs fabulously wealthy) or a legacy of a large payment to the IRS after death.  The incentive is still important to move people in the right direction.

If you are political junky like me – on tax and other issues – you have to be waiting anxiously for this inauguration to finally be over.

When are the tax riots going to begin?

Remember this headline?  71 STUDENTS ARRESTED IN TUITION PROTEST ON RUTGERS’ HOME CAMPUS (Philadelphia Inquirer – May 13, 1989)

“Rutgers University students and police clashed yesterday when officers moved to break up a sit-in at the dean’s office by students protesting 13 percent tuition increases…”

Yes, Rutgers in 1989 raised their tuition by 13% and 71 students rioted and got arrested.

On January 1, 2013, tax rates are scheduled to increase as follows:

  • Dividends by up to 190%
  • Capital gains by up to 59%
  • Income tax by up to 13%
  • Estate tax by around 290% (for someone with approximately $10 million in assets)

 

You would think that people might be upset.  Sit-ins, no.  But, media coverage…where is it?!

Of course, those in the fundraising arena, planned giving in particular, need to be ready for what might be the most favorable tax-incentivized atmosphere for planned gifts since the late 1990s.

By the way, the tuition increase at Rutgers in 1989 amounted to a $296 bump that brought the Fall 1989 in-state tuition to $2,576!  Boy have times changed.

Number of Estate Tax Payers Set to Jump by 1,580% in 2013

Slowly, people and the media are picking up on the impending estate tax situation (see these posts https://theplannedgivingblog.wordpress.com/tag/2013-taxes/ for the details).

The latest IRS estimates on numbers of taxable estates is as follows:

  • 2012 – 3,300 estimated estates paying any estate tax
  • 2013 – 52,500 estimated estates paying any estate tax

That is a jump by 15.8 times or 1,580%.  Seems like a lot to me.

Interestingly, individuals don’t seem to be taking advantage of 2012’s very favorable estate and gift tax laws.  See this article:  http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-07-13/rich-passing-up-10-million-opportunity-to-gift-tax-free.

Very interesting phenomena.  Right now, there is very clear indication that individuals potentially facing estate taxes should do some sophisticated estate planning today – gift up to $10 million to children or even grandchildren.  Take advantage while the law lasts!  But, no, people are just not acting on it.

Maybe everyone assumes the law will get fixed – which is very likely.  But, not before we have at least a few months of limbo wondering if the 2001 law of $1 million lifetime exemption/55% federal estate tax rate will snare some unsuspecting tax payers.  Just like the 2010 estate tax repeal year where several billionaires just happened to pass away and avoid billions upon billions of estate taxes, the opposite could happen to average Joe’s who scrimped and saved their entire lives and might end up paying well more than their fair share.  It is like musical chairs – it all depends on where you are when the music stops.

For nonprofits, my advice stays the same: start planning seminars on estate planning for the fall!  You never know when people are going to adjust their estates and this fall we may see a rash of last second estate planning to avoid what it coming.  Why not get a fresh message about including your nonprofit in one’s estate plans in front of your prospects just as they might be changing their plans?