Charitable giving

Strategic Charitable Giving: How to Make an Impact with Your Donations While Minimizing Your Tax Bill

Strategic Charitable Giving

Americans are some of the most generous people in the world. In 2021, Americans gave over $484 billion to charity, according to Giving USA’s 2021 Annual Report. More impressive is that individuals represent 67% of total giving, giving nearly $327 billion in 2021.

There are many reasons to give to charity, from feeling good to creating a legacy. Yet charitable giving can also be important from a financial planning perspective.

In this article, I’m sharing three charitable giving strategies to help you minimize your year-end tax bill.

Charitable Giving and Your Taxes

First, let’s review how charitable giving impacts your taxes.

Currently, taxpayers who itemize deductions can give up to 60% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) to public charities, including donor-advised funds, and deduct the amount donated on that year’s tax return.

You can also deduct up to 30% of your AGI for donations of non-cash assets. In addition, you can carry over charitable contributions that exceed these limits in up to five subsequent tax years.

You need to know your marginal tax rate to calculate your potential tax savings. Your marginal tax rate is the amount of additional tax you pay for every additional dollar earned as income. So if your marginal tax rate is 28% and you itemize, you’ll save roughly 28 cents for every dollar you give to charity.

How to Make a Bigger Tax Impact With Your Giving

Yes, you can write checks to your favorite charities throughout the year, and while your donations may be generous, this approach to giving isn’t the most tax-efficient. Here are some ways to give that are:

#1: Donor-Advised Funds

One of the most efficient ways individuals can donate to charity is through a donor-advised fund (DAF). A DAF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization that can accept cash donations, appreciated securities, and other non-cash assets.

One of the advantages of a DAF is that you can take a taxable deduction in the year you contribute to it, even if you haven’t decided which charities to support. You can then invest and grow your funds tax-free within your DAF until you decide how to distribute them.

And, even better than donating cash, you can donate non-cash assets like highly appreciated stock to a DAF and avoid paying the capital gains tax. This strategy can also help you diversify your investment portfolio without triggering an unpleasant tax bill. Plus, you can take an immediate deduction for the full value of the donation (subject to IRS limits).

#2: Bunching Charitable Donations

Bunching your charitable donations can be beneficial if your total allowable itemized deductions are just under the standard deduction. In 2022, the standard deduction for single taxpayers is $12,950 and $25,900 for married couples.


Let’s say you give $3000 a year to charity, and it doesn’t get you over the standard deduction amount. However, you could go over the standard deduction if you “bunched” your charitable contributions into one year. For example, in 2022, if you gave $9000 instead of $3000 you could itemize deductions and save tax dollars. Then, you would skip donating in the next two years and go back to the standard deduction. Then, in the third year, you would donate $9000 again.

The result will be more significant tax savings over multiple-year timeframes.

#3: Qualified Charitable Contributions

If you’re age 72 or older and have a traditional IRA, the IRS requires you to take a minimum distribution (RMD) from your account each year. In most cases, RMDs are taxable at your ordinary income tax rate. There’s also a steep penalty for not taking your RMD before the deadline.

Meanwhile, if you have other sources of income like Social Security benefits and possibly a pension, your RMD can push you into a higher tax bracket. That means you may pay more taxes than you would otherwise, even if you don’t need the extra income.

The good news is you can donate your RMD by making a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). A QCD allows IRA owners to transfer up to $100,000 directly to charity each year and avoid taxation on the amount.

A QCD can satisfy all or part of your RMD, depending on your income needs. You can also donate more than your RMD, so long as you stay below the $100,000 limit. This strategy can be helpful if you want to reduce your IRA balance and RMDs in future years.

It’s important to note that the IRS considers the first dollars from an IRA to be your RMD until you take the total amount. So, make your QCD before you take any other withdrawals from your account if you want to realize the full tax benefit of this charitable giving strategy.

A Trusted Financial Advisor Can Help You Incorporate Charitable Giving Strategies into Your Financial Plan

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of charitable giving strategies that can help you make a bigger impact with your donations while lowering your tax bill. Other giving and tax planning strategies may be more appropriate depending on your circumstances and goals.

A trusted advisor like Curtis Financial Planning can help you incorporate giving strategies into your financial plan, so you don’t miss out on valuable tax benefits. Please start here to learn more about how we help our clients and the other services we provide.

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Strategic Philanthropy: How to Feel Good About Your Giving

Does this sound familiar? December rolls around and your mailbox is full of solicitations from charities and non-profit organizations that need your money. You get busy with the holidays—parties, family, travel—and on December 31, you realize that you haven’t made any donations. You kick yourself but realize there is no way you’re going to get to it, and you resolve to be more proactive about your giving next year. Or, you scramble to write a bunch of checks, stuff them in their envelopes and drop them in the mailbox, hoping you didn’t forget anyone.

You haven’t kept track of what you might have given these organizations and others during the year. You put it out of your mind until taxes are due and you are compelled to make the calculations in order to take advantage of the tax deduction. As you look over your list of donations, some of you may be proud of what you see—you’re happy with both the level of giving and who you chose to give money too. On the other hand, some of you are horrified that you gave too little or too much.

There is a better way.

Why not be more strategic about your charitable giving? Here’s how:

  • Early in the year, identify charities and non-profits that do things you care about. Think about your values and ideals and find organizations that support them.
  • Consider your charitable giving as an expense just as you would any other discretionary expense, like travel, dining out or entertainment. Start with how much you would like to give annually, and then determine whether you can afford it. Realize that you may have to cut back on another expense to meet your charitable goal.
  • Take your budgeted amount and divide it amongst your chosen organizations.
  • Schedule your donations to fit optimally with your cash flow.

You may realize in the process that you can’t afford to give as much as you would like. This gives you an opportunity to find other ways to help: by volunteering, donating goods or helping to spread that word about the cause. Either way, you will have a strategic giving plan that you can feel good about.

If you’re stumped on the first step (identifying organizations to give your money or time too) here are some online tools you can turn to: is an independent charity finder that has some interesting features like top 10 lists to help you narrow your search. Type your zip code in the “act locally” search feature and find organizations near you. This website provides a list of top-rated charities.

Happy giving!

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Curtis Financial Planning