Category: Charitable Giving

Seniors are missing out on Tax Deductions

Seniors are missing out on Tax Deductions

Many seniors are missing out on tax deductions and tax savings, according to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, “Four Lucrative Tax Deductions That Seniors Often Overlook.” The tax code is complicated, and changes are frequent.

Since 2017, there have been several major tax changes, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the pandemic-era Cares Act and the climate and healthcare package known as the Inflation Reduction Act. Those are just three—there’s been more. Unless you’re a tax expert, chances are you won’t know about the possibilities. However, these four could be very helpful for seniors, especially those living on fixed incomes.

The IRS does offer a community-based program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly. This community-based program includes free tax return preparation for seniors aged 60 and over in low to moderate-income brackets. However, not everyone knows about this program or feels comfortable with an IRS-run tax program.

Here are four overlooked tax deductions for seniors:

Extra standard deduction. Millions of Americans take the standard deduction—a flat dollar amount determined by the IRS, which reduces taxable income—instead of itemizing deductions like mortgage interest and charitable deductions on the 1040 tax form.

In the 2023 tax year, seniors who are 65 or over or blind and meet certain qualifications are eligible for an extra standard deduction in addition to the regular deduction.

The extra standard deduction for seniors for 2023 is $1,850 for single filers or those who file as head of household and $3,000 for married couples, if each spouse is 65 or over filing jointly. This boosts the total standard deduction for single filers and married filing jointly to $15,700 and $30,700, respectively.

IRA contributions by a spouse. Did you know you can contribute earned income to a nonworking or low-earning spouse’s IRA if you file a joint tax return as a married couple? These are known as spousal IRAs and are treated just like traditional IRAs, reducing pretax income. They are not joint accounts—the individual spouse owns each IRA, and you can’t do this with a Roth IRA. There are specific guidelines, such as the working spouse must earn at least as much money as they contributed to both of the couple’s IRAs.

Qualified charitable distributions. Seniors who make charitable donations by taking money from their bank account or traditional IRA and then writing a check from their bank account is a common tax mistake. It is better to use a qualified charitable deduction, or QCD, which lets seniors age 70 ½ and older transfer up to $100,000 directly from a traditional IRA to a charity tax-free. Married couples filing jointly can donate $200,000 annually, and neither can contribute more than $100,000.

The contributions must be made to a qualified 501(c)(3) charity. The donation can’t be from Donor-Advised Funds. This is a great option when you need to take the annual withdrawal, known as a Required Minimum Distribution or RMD, and don’t need the money.

Medicare premium deduction. A self-employed retiree can deduct Medicare premiums even if they don’t itemize. This includes Medicare Part B and D, plus the cost of supplemental Medigap policies or a Medicare Advantage plan. The IRS considers self-employed people who own a business as a sole proprietor (Schedule C), partner (Schedule E), limited liability company member, or S corporation shareholder with at least 2% of the company stock.

Remember, you must have business income to qualify, since you can deduct premiums by only as much as you earn from your business. You also can’t claim the deduction if your health insurance is covered by a retiree medical plan hosted by a former employer or your spouse’s employer’s medical plan.

Seniors should consult with an estate planning attorney make sure they are not missing out on possible tax deductions. If you would like to learn more about tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 29, 2023) “Four Lucrative Tax Deductions That Seniors Often Overlook”

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Qualified Charitable Distributions benefit older Taxpayers

Qualified Charitable Distributions benefit older Taxpayers

Qualified charitable distributions use the federal tax code to benefit older taxpayers and must take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Recent changes in federal law under the SECURE Act 2.0 present even more opportunities to use QCDs, according to a recent article, “Planning Ahead: Expanding on year-end tax strategies for Qualified Charitable Distributions,” from The Mercury. How does it work?

Required Minimum Distributions for seniors can become a problem since taxpayers above a given age must withdraw specific amounts based on their age from traditional retirement accounts and pay taxes on the withdrawals, regardless of whether they need the money. The reason is obvious: if people weren’t required to take funds out of their accounts, the government would never have the opportunity to generate tax revenue. The QCD lessens the blow of the additional year-end taxes by providing some relief through donations to qualified charities.

Used correctly, the QCD serves two purposes: saving on taxes and benefiting a favorite charity. Charities include any 501(c)(3) entities under the federal tax code. Before using a QCD, ensure the charity you choose is a qualified 501(c)(3). Otherwise, you’ll lose any tax benefits.

Your estate planning attorney can help you understand the process of making a QCD. You’ll need to coordinate with the custodian of the IRA. While some may provide step-by-step information, others require you to coordinate with your estate planning attorney and financial advisor. A reminder—the point of the QCD is that the distribution does not appear in your adjusted gross income and goes directly to the charity.

Usually, taking RMDs adds funds to your taxable income, which can, unfortunately, push you into a higher income tax bracket. It could also limit or eliminate some tax deductions, such as personal exemptions and itemized deductions. There may be increases in taxes on Social Security benefits as well. Whether you want or need to take the RMD, you must take it and include it as taxable income.

Qualified charitable distributions benefit older taxpayers by allowing individuals required to take RMDs to donate up to $100,000 to one or more qualified charities directly from a taxable IRA, without the funds being counted as income.

The RMD age has increased to 73, but the $100,000 will be indexed for inflation. Under SECURE Act 2.0, individuals will be allowed to make a one-time election of up to $50,000 inflation-indexed for QCDs to certain entities, including Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts, Charitable Remainder Unitrusts and Charitable Gift Annuities.

QCDs cannot be made to donor-advised funds, private foundations and supporting organizations, even though these are often categorized as charities.

It must be noted that the rules concerning QCD are detailed and strict—you’ll want the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

The QCD must be made by December 31 of the tax year in question. If you would like to learn more about charitable planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Mercury (Nov. 22, 2023) “Planning Ahead: Expanding on year-end tax strategies for Qualified Charitable Distributions”

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Tax Planning may Impact your Medicare Costs

Tax planning may impact your Medicare costs. How much retirees pay for Medicare Part B premiums is based on income levels, and an income increase of even $1 can trigger higher tax rates, explains the recent article, “Year-end tax strategies may affect how much retirees pay for Medicare. Here’s what to know” from CNBC.

Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 3.2% increase in benefits in 2024 based on the annual COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). According to the Social Security Administration, this will result in an estimated increase of more than $50 per month, bringing the average monthly retirement benefit for workers from $1,848 in 2023 to $1,907 in 2024.

How much beneficiaries will actually receive won’t be known until December, when annual benefit statements are sent out. One factor possibly offsetting those benefit increases is the size of Medicare Part B premiums, which are typically deducted directly from Social Security monthly benefits.

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, some home health care services, durable medical equipment and other services not covered by Medicare Part A.

Medicare Part B premiums for 2024 have not yet been announced. However, the Medicare trustees have projected the standard monthly premium possibly being $174.80 in 2024, up from $164.90 in 2023.

Some beneficiaries may pay more, based on income, in what’s known as IRMAA or Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts. In 2023, it is the standard Part B premium for those who file individually and have $97,000 or less (or $194,000 or less for couples) in modified adjusted gross income on their federal tax return in 2021.

Monthly premiums can go up to as much as $560.50 per month for individuals with incomes of $500,000 and up, for couples with $750,000 and up.

Beneficiaries receive the same Medicare services regardless of the monthly Part B premium rate.

In 2024, the monthly Part B premiums will be based on 2022 federal tax returns. Beneficiaries need to pay attention to how their incomes may change when implementing year-end tax strategies.

For instance, if you do a Roth conversion, taking pre-tax funds from a traditional IRA or eligible qualified retirement plan like a 401(k) and moving them to a post-tax retirement account, you’ll trigger income taxes, which may trigger higher Medicare Part B premiums later.

Tax planning may impact your Medicare costs. People who do end-of-year tax loss harvesting, selling off assets at a loss to offset capital gains owed on other profitable investments, may reduce adjusted gross income and future Medicare premiums.

If you’re taking distributions from IRAs and want to make charitable donations, you might want to make those donations directly from your retirement account, known as a qualified charitable distribution. These funds don’t appear on your tax return and won’t increase income taxes or future Medicare premiums. If you would like to read more about Medicare and tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CNBC (Oct. 12, 2023) “Year-end tax strategies may affect how much retirees pay for Medicare. Here’s what to know”

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The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 8 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 8 is out now!

Homelessness is not going away. How we manage it can be frustrating and sometimes seems futile.  It’s not. In Homeless But Not Hopeless, Brad and Alan Graham, the founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves and Fishes have a lively conversation on what he, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, and their Community First! Village program are doing to improve the lives of the homeless, and improve our city too.

If you’ve ever wondered about what to do when approached by a homeless person at an intersection, Alan has an answer for that too!

If you would like to learn more about how to volunteer or donate to Mobile Loaves and Fishes or Community First! Village, please visit mlf.org

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In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand. It is Estate Planning Made Simple! The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 8 is out now! The episode can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would prefer to watch the video version, please visit our YouTube page. Please click on the links below to listen to or watch the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 4 – How To Give Yourself a Charitable Gift is out now!

 

Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

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Tax Scams Involving Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts

Tax Scams Involving Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts

If you are a wealthy family looking into estate planning, beware of tax scams involving Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts. The IRS has issued a warning about promoters aiming specifically at wealthy taxpayers, advises a recent article, “IRS Warns Of Tax Scams That Target Wealthy,” from Financial Advisor. Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs) are irrevocable trusts that allow individuals to donate assets to charity and draw annual income for life or for a fixed period. A CRAT pays a dollar amount each year, and the IRS examines these trusts to ensure they correctly report trust income and distributions to beneficiaries. Of course, tax documents must also be filed properly.

Some sophisticated scammers boast of the benefits of using CRATs to eliminate ordinary income or capital gain on the sale of the property. However, property with a fair market value over its basis is transferred to the CRAT, the IRS explains, and taxpayers may wrongly claim the transfer of the property to the CRAT, resulting in an increase in basis to fair market value, as if the property had been sold to the trust.

The CRAT then sells the property but needs to recognize the gain due to the claimed step-up in basis.  The CRAT then purchases a single premium immediate annuity with the proceeds from the property sale. This is a misapplication of tax rules. The taxpayer or beneficiary may not treat the remaining portion as an excluding portion representing a return of investment for which no tax is due.

In another scam, abusive monetized installment sales, thieves find taxpayers seeking to defer the recognition of gain at the sale of appreciated property. They facilitate a purported monetized installment sale for the taxpayer for a fee. These sales occur when an intermediary purchase appreciated property from a seller in exchange for an installment note, which typically provides interest payments only, with the principal paid at the end of the term.

The seller gets the larger share of the proceeds but improperly delays recognition of gain on the appreciated property until the final payment on the installment note, often years later.

Anyone who pressures an investor to invest quickly, guarantees high returns or tax-free income, or says they can eliminate taxes using installment sales, trusts, or other means, should be dismissed immediately. Beware of tax scams involving Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts. Your estate planning attorney is well-versed in how CRATs, LLCs, S Corps, trusts, or charitable donations are used and will steer you and your assets into legal, proper investment strategies. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Financial Advisor (April 24, 203) “IRS Warns Of Tax Scams That Target Wealthy”

 

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Qualified Charitable Distributions Reduce Tax Burden

Qualified Charitable Distributions Reduce Tax Burden

Assets held in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are unquestionably the best assets to gift to charity, since IRAs are loaded with taxes. One way to relieve this tax burden is by using the IRA for charitable giving during your lifetime, says a recent article, “Giving funds in IRAs to charity with QCDs,” from Investment News. Qualified charitable distributions can help reduce your tax burden.

Most people who give to charity don’t receive the taxable benefit because they don’t itemize deductions. They instead use the higher standard deduction, which offers no extra tax deduction for charitable giving.

Older taxpayers are more likely to use the standard deduction, since taxpayers aged 65 and older receive an extra standard deduction. In 2022, the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly when each of the spouses are 65 and older is $28,700. The exceptions are couples with large medical expenses or those who make large charitable gifts.

Here’s where the IRA for charitable giving comes in. IRAs normally may not be given to charity or anyone in the owner’s life (except in the case of divorce). There is one exception: giving IRAs to charity with a QCD.

The QCD is a direct transfer of traditional IRA funds to a qualified charity. The QCD is an exclusion from income, which reduces Adjusted Gross Income. AGI is the most significant number on the tax return because it determines the availability of many tax deductions, credits and other benefits. Lowering AGI with a QCD could also work to reduce “stealth” taxes–taxes on Social Security benefits or Medicare premium surcharges.

QCDs are limited to $100,000 per person, per year (not per IRA). They can also satisfy RMDs up to the $100,000, but only if the timing is right.

There are some limitations to discuss with your estate planning attorney. For instance, QCDs are only available to IRA owners who are 70 ½ or older. They can only be made once you turn age 70 ½, not anytime in the year you turn 70 ½. The difference matters.

QCDs are not available from 401(k) or other employer plans. They also aren’t allowed for gifts to Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) and private foundations, and they can’t be made from active SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, where contributions are still being made.

Appreciated stocks can also be gifted to qualified charities and itemized deductions taken for the fair market value of the stock, if it was held for more than one year. There’s no tax on appreciation, as there would be if the stock were sold instead of gifted.

There are some tax traps to consider, including the SECURE Act, which allows traditional IRAs to be made after age 70 ½. However, it pairs the provision with a poison pill. If the IRA deduction is taken in the same year as a QCD, or any year before the QCD, the QCD tax exclusion could be reduced or lost. This can be avoided by making Roth IRA contributions instead of tax-deductible IRA contributions after age 70 ½.

Speak with your estate planning attorney about whether using qualified charitable distributions to help reduce your tax burden makes sense for your estate planning and tax situation. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Investment News (Dec. 9, 2022) “Giving funds in IRAs to charity with QCDs”

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How Charitable Giving can Benefit the Giver

How Charitable Giving can Benefit the Giver

A charitable donation tax deduction feels good in a few ways. Not only do you feel good about giving to a good cause, but charitable giving can also benefit the giver. However, before you start writing checks or making online donations, you should know what rules to follow to ensure your good-hearted gifting is giving you tax deductions, explains the article “Charitable Donation Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving” from Kiplinger.

First, you’ll need to itemize to claim a charitable tax deduction. If you took the standard deduction on your 2020 or 2021 tax return, you could also claim up to $300 for cash donations to charity. This deduction wasn’t available to taxpayers who claimed itemized deductions on Schedule A. This deduction wasn’t extended past 2021, so you can’t claim a charitable donation tax deduction on your 2022 tax return. For 2022 and beyond, you’ll have to itemize if you want to write off gifts to charity.

If your standard deduction is a little higher than your itemized deduction, consolidate charitable deductions from the next few years into the current tax years, known as “bunching.” This lets you boost your itemized deductions for the current year, so they exceed your standard deduction amount. Consider using a Donor Advised Fund, where you can make one large contribution to a fund and deduct the entire amount as an itemized deduction in the year you make it. Just be sure your donations align with your estate plan.

How do you know what donations are deductible? Contributions of cash or property are generally deductible. If you donate property, the deduction is equal to the property’s fair market value. If you give appreciated property, you may have to reduce the fair market value by the amount of appreciation when calculating the deduction. If the property has decreased, your deduction is limited to the current fair market value.

There are certain requirements and limitations for charitable tax deductions. For gifts of $250 or more, you must have a written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of a cash donation and a description of any donated property, but not value, and whether or not you received any goods or services in return for your contribution. At certain valuation points, you’ll need to file certain forms and if you donate a car, boat, or airplane worth more than $5,000, you may need to have the property appraised also.

Just because your donation was used for a good cause doesn’t mean you can deduct it. Only contributions to certain charitable organizations are deductible. For instance, if a neighbor starts a Go Fund Me page, those donations, while greatly appreciated, are not tax deductible.

The IRS makes it easy to determine if any donations are tax deductible with the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on its website to find out if an organization is tax-exempt.

For seniors who are at least 70 ½ years old, you can transfer up to $100,000 directly from a traditional IRA to charity through a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). The charitable donations made by eligible seniors via a QCD aren’t deducible. However, you can still save on taxes, since QCDs aren’t included in taxable income. Charitable giving can benefit the giver, but only if you have taken the time to plan accordingly. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving, please visit our previous posts. 

QCDs also count towards senior’s Required Minimum Distribution, without adding to your adjusted gross income.

Reference: Kiplinger (Nov. 28, 2022) “Charitable Donation Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving”

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 4 – How To Give Yourself a Charitable Gift is out now!

 

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The Estate of The Union Episode 12 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Episode 12 is out now!

This is the traditional time for giving. Giving to a cause and giving of ourselves.

The newest episode of The Estate of The Union focuses on the topic of charitable giving. Brad chats with Stacey Wedding, an expert on charitable giving, about how it can play a role in your planning strategy and help the people and organizations that have meaning in your life. They discuss both the How and the Why of giving – and Stacy will share tips on becoming a smarter giver too!

Laws concerning charitable giving can change, so be sure your gifting strategies are still appropriate for your estate. Charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) and Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are options for people who are already charitably inclined to reduce estate taxes. Charitable Remainder Trust can reduce taxes for people who would be making gifts to support meaningful causes. DAFs can be created and funded by individuals or a family and receive a deduction that very same year.

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand.

It is Estate Planning Made Simple!

To learn more about Stacey Wedding and the Stacey Wedding Group, please visit her website:

 

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The Estate of The Union episode 12-Giving Yourself Away can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. You can also view this podcast on our YouTube page. The Estate of The Union Episode 12 out now. We hope you enjoy it.

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Texas Trust Law/Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

Consider an estate planning checklist

Consider an Estate Planning Checklist

We know why estate planning for your assets, family and legacy falls through the cracks. It’s not the thing a new parent wants to think about while cuddling a newborn, or a grandparent wants to think about as they prepare for a family get-together. However, this is an important thing to take care of, advises a recent article from Kiplinger titled “2021 Estate Planning Checkup: Is Your Estate Plan Up to Date? Consider maintaining an estate planning checklist to keep your planning current.

Every four years, or every time a trigger event occurs—birth, death, marriage, divorce, relocation—the estate plan needs to be reviewed. Reviewing an estate plan is a relatively straightforward matter and neglecting it could lead to undoing strategic tax plans and unnecessary costs.

Moving to a new state? Estate laws are different from state to state, so what works in one state may not be considered valid in another. You’ll also want to update your address, and make sure that family and advisors know where your last will can be found in your new home.

Changes in the law. The last five years have seen an inordinate number of changes to laws that impact retirement accounts and taxes. One big example is the SECURE Act, which eliminated the Stretch IRA, requiring heirs to empty inherited IRA accounts in ten years, instead of over their lifetimes. A strategy that worked great a few years ago no longer works. However, there are other means of protecting your heirs and retirement accounts.

Do you have a Power of Attorney? A POA gives a person you authorize the ability to manage your financial, business, personal and legal affairs, if you become incapacitated. If the POA is old, a bank or investment company may balk at allowing your representative to act on your behalf. If you have one, make sure it’s up to date and the person you named is still the person you want. If you need to make a change, it’s very important that you put it in writing and notify the proper parties.

Health Care Power of Attorney needs to be updated as well. Marriage does not automatically authorize your spouse to speak with doctors, obtain medical records or make medical decisions on your behalf. If you have strong opinions about what procedures you do and do not want, the Health Care POA can document your wishes.

Last Will and Testament is Essential. Your last will needs regular review throughout your lifetime. Has the person you named as an executor four years ago remained in your life, or moved to another state? A last will also names an executor for your property and a guardian for minor children. It also needs to have trust provisions to pay for your children’s upbringing and to protect their inheritance.

Speaking of Trusts. If your estate plan includes trusts, review trustee and successor appointments to be sure they are still appropriate. You should also check on estate and inheritance taxes to ensure that the estate will be able to cover these costs. If you have an irrevocable trust, confirm that the trustee is still ready and able to carry out the duties, including administration, management and tax returns.

Gifting in the Estate Plan. Laws concerning charitable giving also change, so be sure your gifting strategies are still appropriate for your estate. An estate plan review is also a good time to review the organizations you wish to support.

It is a wise and prudent choice to consider maintaining an estate planning checklist to ensure that your planning is up to date with your life. If you would like to learn more about crafting an estate plan, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (July 28, 2021) “2021 Estate Planning Checkup: Is Your Estate Plan Up to Date?

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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