One of the great things about this country, and the West Michigan area in particular, is that we like to help others.  In many cases this is shown by giving to one or more charities.  It could be giving of our time through volunteering, or giving of our financial resources.  Our government supports this by providing various tax benefits for giving to charity.  In this previous post we gave a general overview of the many different ways each family can contribute some of their financial resources to charity.  You’ll notice that the first item on the list is cash (or cash equivalents).  Yet, that tends to be the most inefficient financial resource you can give.

Surprised?  Many people are . . . including me before I learned more about it.  You see, many of us give to charities for one of two reasons (or for both reasons): (1) we support the charity’s cause(s) or mission, and/or (2) we want the tax deduction for the contribution.  And although it may not be a driving factor, why not try to maximize the tax benefits.  And while we’re at it, why not try to use the tax benefits to give even more to charity with no change in effect on our “pocket book.”  And that’s where “cash” contributions fall short.  With a cash contribution, you may get the charitable deduction (depending on your income level), but that’s it.  You may be asking, “so what if that’s it . . . I gave, got the deduction, and it’s done.”  Well, what if you found out that you could get give more to your favorite charity, get an even bigger tax benefit, and not feel it any more in your “pocket book.”  Impossible?  Nope.

That’s where non cash charitable contributions come in.  What do I mean by “non cash?”  I’m talking about many of those other items on the list in the previous post.  Items such as public stock, private company stock, real estate, retirement assets, life insurance, valuables and collectibles, and the list goes on.  How do you get this “double benefit” with non cash assets that I mentioned earlier?  Well, it varies based on the type of asset, but in many cases you receive a combination of transferring an appreciated value to the charity (e.g. more than you would have if you contributed cash), getting a tax deduction on your personal tax return (depending on your annual income), and you no longer have to pay the “gain tax” you would have otherwise had to pay on the non cash assets had you sold them and contributed the money to the charity.  Wait a second . . . that’s a triple benefit!  You bet!

In a future post we’ll take a look at one of the most “painless” non cash contributions you can make . . . appreciated stock.  Until then, if you, someone you know, or a charity you work with has any questions, call us at 616-827-7596.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their families values, insights, stories and experiences.