The end of the year is a good time to think about the many blessings we've received and our thankfulness to the Giver of Every Good Gift.
It's also a good time to think about keeping the government's hands off our money so we can have more of it to give away to our friends, family, and community.
The House and Senate tax bills headed to conference committee, some version of which appears likely to become law, both essentially double the standard deduction for individuals and families in the coming year. For tax payers who do not itemize, this is very good news. For tax payers who currently itemize, this change requires analysis and action on your part to make sure you maximize the good news for your family.
Although the charitable deduction is preserved, some hand-wringers are already predicting reduced charitable giving by middle-and-upper-middle-class folks as the higher standard deduction reduces the marginal utility of charitable giving.
Here at Design Independence Headquarters, any time we can find a strategy to pay a little less in taxes, we give more, not less away. This is because we have more to give, since less was taken by the government. We think the hand-wringing is overblown.
One of the few opportunities that individuals have to manage their taxes is to manage the timing of when they realize income. To employ these strategies it's good to have ready access to some cash. The doubling of the standard deduction makes this tactic even more important and valuable.
Here's how to manage the timing of your income to have more wealth under these proposed plans. You can then invest, give, or spend that wealth as you see fit, rather than entrusting it to government geniuses.
Because mortgage interest deductions and property tax deductions cannot be managed from a timing standpoint, I ignore them in this analysis.
Imagine your taxable income is $233,350 annually. This is the very top of the 28% bracket. You will make charitable gifts of $23,335 this year. Your filing status is married filing jointly. Under our the current tax code, because your giving exceeds the standard deduction, you will receive the benefit of your marginal rate on your gifts. Your total deductions in this scenario are 28% X $23,335 - a tax savings of $6534.
Assuming a standard deduction under the new tax plan of $24,000, you will receive no marginal tax benefit from your gifts if you simply continue this same program of charitable giving. Your overall taxes will be lower though.
However, you can use these changes to pay less tax and keep more money. Because I cannot model a complete tax return, I will model only the tax benefit of the charitable giving. We'll assume a 25% marginal rate for this family under the new tax plan.
To implement this plan, you'll double up on your giving in alternating years and take the standard deduction in alternating years. Here's how the numbers look for the charitable giving in your return.
First, accelerate your 2018 giving now to capture the full 28% marginal rate in the current year.
Then, take the standard deduction in 2018. Continue this pattern as below. You can take some of your tax savings and make additional gifts in the years in which you are doubling up on your giving if you'd like!
The alternating double-up strategy
The give-as-you-go strategy
The difference between these two strategies is $17,869 in five years. Not life-changing, but not chump-change either.
What would you do with an extra $6000 every other year? You could give it away. You could take two very nice beach trips. You could replace an air conditioner. You could chunk it to the mortgage. You get the idea. Now get with your CPA and make a plan!