Restricted gifts — or donations with conditions attached — can be difficult for not-for-profits to manage. Unlike unrestricted gifts, these donations can’t be poured into your general operating fund and be used where they’re most needed. Instead, restricted gifts generally are designated to fund a specific program or initiative, such as a building or scholarship fund.

It’s not only unethical, but dangerous, not to comply with a donor’s restrictions. If donors learn you’ve ignored their wishes, they can demand the money back and sue your organization. And your reputation will almost certainly take a hit. Rather than take that risk, try to encourage your donors to give with no strings attached.

Continue Reading How to Persuade Donors to Remove “Restricted” from Gifts

If you’re like many Americans, letters from your favorite charities have been appearing in your mailbox in recent weeks acknowledging your 2018 year-end donations. But what happens if you haven’t received such a letter — can you still claim an itemized deduction for the gift on your 2018 income tax return? It depends.

Basic Requirements
To support a charitable deduction, you need to comply with IRS substantiation requirements. This generally includes obtaining a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation, and the value of any such goods or services.

Continue Reading Charity Donation Letters May Affect Your 2018 Income Tax Return

Traditionally, Americans have supported charities not only for tax breaks and a vague sense of “giving back,” but also for a variety of other financial, emotional and social reasons. Understanding what motivates donors and how their motivations vary across demographic groups can help your not-for-profit more effectively reach and engage potential supporters.

Money Matters
Asset protection and capital preservation traditionally have motivated many wealthy individuals to make charitable donations. And certain strategies — such as gifting appreciated stock or real estate to get “more bang for the buck” — may be particularly appealing to donors who make charitable giving a piece of their larger financial plans.

But high-income donors sometimes have less-obvious financial motivations, such as a wish to limit the amount their children inherit to prevent a “burden of wealth.” Warren Buffett, for example, plans to leave the vast majority of his wealth to charity rather than to his children. As he told Fortune, wealthy parents should leave their children “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.” To appeal to these kinds of donors, you may want to offer to work with the entire family so that they can begin a multi-generational tradition of giving.

Social Considerations
Research by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University has found that younger donors — those between 20 and 45 — as well as wealthier and better-educated individuals are more likely to want to “make a difference” with their gifts. Those with lower incomes and a high school degree or less often donate to meet basic needs in their communities or to “help the poor help themselves.”

Donors of all stripes are motivated by the perceived social effects of giving. Research published in American Economic Review reported that donors typically gave more when their gifts were announced publicly.

Similarly, numerous studies have found that people are more likely to give — and to give in greater amounts — if asked personally, particularly if they know the person making the appeal. These donors may want to make an altruistic impression, and some may seek the prestige of being connected with a well-established and admired not-for-profit “brand.” Such individuals are more likely to buy pricey tickets to annual galas or join a not-for-profit’s board to meet and socialize with others in their socioeconomic group or business community.

Get — and Keep — Their Attention
There are probably as many motivations as there are donors, and most people have more than one reason to support a particular charity. To get — and keep — donors’ attention, perform some basic market research to learn who they are.

Jen: This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Jen Lemanski, and I’m back once again with Annjeanette Yglesias, one of our tax managers and a member of our not-for-profit team. Annjeanette, welcome back to the Playbook.

Annjeanette: Thanks, Jen. It’s nice to be here.

Jen: So, we’ve talked before about the Donor Bill of Rights and how it really wasn’t a legal thing for nonprofits to follow, but I know there’s organizations out there that are considered “watchdogs.” Can you tell us a little bit about some charity watchdogs?

Annjeanette: Charity watchdog organizations are out there, and they’re basically on the Internet and such. And they’re out there to provide donors information. A lot of nonprofit organizations have tax filings and financial information that’s already made available to the public, and these watchdog organizations basically make that information available in one spot for donors to look at.

Jen: So, kind of like a search engine for charities?

Annjeanette: Basically yes.

Jen: What are the main charity watchdogs that people typically go to?

Annjeanette: There’s three that come to mind. So, first of all, there is Charity Navigator, and Charity Navigator is pretty popular. They basically collect tax returns, copy of tax returns and financial information, as well as annual reports that nonprofit organizations might have on their websites. And what they do is they take that information, analyze it and provide a star rating. So, they have a star rating system, and they have a formula that goes behind their star rating system.

And then there’s Charity Watch; Charity Watch is very similar. They get financial information, tax return information that’s already out there to the public collected, and they have their own method of rating organizations and they provide a letter rating A through F.

And then there’s GuideStar; GuideStar doesn’t necessarily analyze a nonprofit organization’s performance. What they do is they’re just a repository for information: the tax returns, financial reports, annual reports, things like that. But what they do have is a seal of transparency rating that they provide each organization based on how much information the organization itself voluntarily provides to customers.

Jen: So, you’ll want to kind of maybe look at all three but then also do your own due diligence as just part of when you’re making a decision whether or not to contribute to a not-for-profit.

Annjeanette: That’s correct. The important thing for nonprofit organizations to know is that these watchdog organizations are out there, and so, it’s important for the nonprofits to understand what they’re looking at, what the grading methodology is and what the donors are seeing from that aspect of it. That way when they field questions from potential donors, potential supporters they’re aware of what’s out there, and they can respond appropriately.

Jen: Well, that’s good to know. Perfect, we’ll get you back to talk a little bit more.

Annjeanette: Sounds good.

Jen: To learn more about how PKF Texas can help your not-for-profit organization, visit PKFTexas.com/notforprofit. This has been another Thought Leader production brought to you by PKF Texas The Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Tune in next week for another chapter.

Not-for-profits often struggle with valuing noncash and in-kind donations. Whether for record-keeping purposes or when helping donors understand proper valuation for their charitable tax deductions, the task isn’t easy. Although the amount that a donor can deduct generally is based on the donation’s fair market value (FMV), there’s no single formula for calculating it.

FMV Basics
FMV is often defined as the price that property would sell for on the open market. For example, if a donor contributes used clothes, the FMV would be the price that typical buyers pay for clothes of the same age, condition, style and use. If the property is subject to any type of restriction on use, the FMV must reflect it. So, if a donor stipulates that a painting must be displayed, not sold, that restriction affects its value.

According to the IRS, there are three particularly relevant FMV factors:

  1. Cost or selling price. This is the cost of the item to the donor or the actual selling price received by your organization. However, note that, because market conditions can change, the cost or price becomes less important the further in time the purchase or sale was from the contribution date.
  2. Comparable sales. The sales price of a property similar to the donated property can determine FMV. The weight that the IRS gives to a comparable sale depends on the:
    • Degree of similarity between the property sold and the donated property,
    • Time of the sale,
    • Circumstances of the sale (was it at arm’s length?), and
    • Market conditions.
  1. Replacement cost. FMV should consider the cost of buying or creating property similar to the donated item, but the replacement cost must have a reasonable relationship with the FMV.

Businesses that contribute inventory can generally deduct the smaller of its FMV on the day of the contribution or the inventory’s basis. The basis is any cost incurred for the inventory in an earlier year that the business would otherwise include in its opening inventory for the year of the contribution. If the cost of donated inventory isn’t included in the opening inventory, its basis is zero and the business can’t claim a deduction.

Important Reminder
Even if a donor can’t deduct a noncash or in-kind donation (for example, a piece of tangible property or property rights), you may need to record the donation on your financial statements. Recognize such donations at their fair value, or what it would cost if your organization were to buy the donation outright.

If you’re charitably inclined and you collect art, appreciated artwork can make one of the best charitable gifts from a tax perspective. In general, donating appreciated property is doubly beneficial because you can both enjoy a valuable tax deduction and avoid the capital gains taxes you’d owe if you sold the property. The extra benefit from donating artwork comes from the fact that the top long-term capital gains rate for art and other “collectibles” is 28%, as opposed to 20% for most other appreciated property.

Requirements
The first thing to keep in mind if you’re considering a donation of artwork is that you must itemize deductions to deduct charitable contributions. Now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has nearly doubled the standard deduction and put tighter limits on many itemized deductions (but not the charitable deduction), many taxpayers who have itemized in the past will no longer benefit from itemizing.

For 2018, the standard deduction is $12,000 for singles, $18,000 for heads of households and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. Your total itemized deductions must exceed the applicable standard deduction for you to enjoy a tax benefit from donating artwork.

Something else to be aware of is that most artwork donations require a “qualified appraisal” by a “qualified appraiser.” IRS rules contain detailed requirements about the qualifications an appraiser must possess and the contents of an appraisal.

IRS auditors are required to refer all gifts of art valued at $20,000 or more to the IRS Art Advisory Panel. The panel’s findings are the IRS’s official position on the art’s value, so it’s critical to provide a solid appraisal to support your valuation.

Finally, note that, if you own both the work of art and the copyright to the work, you must assign the copyright to the charity to qualify for a charitable deduction.

Maximizing Your Deduction
The charity you choose and how the charity will use the artwork can have a significant impact on your tax deduction. Donations of artwork to a public charity, such as a museum or university with public charity status, can entitle you to deduct the artwork’s full fair market value. If you donate art to a private foundation, however, your deduction will be limited to your cost.

For your donation to a public charity to qualify for a full fair-market-value deduction, the charity’s use of the donated artwork must be related to its tax-exempt purpose. If, for example, you donate a painting to a museum for display or to a university’s art history department for use in its research, you’ll satisfy the related-use rule. But if you donate it to, say, a children’s hospital to auction off at its annual fundraising gala, you won’t satisfy the rule.

Plan Carefully
Donating artwork is a great way to share enjoyment of the work with others. But to reap the maximum tax benefit, too, you must plan your gift carefully and follow all of the applicable rules.

Your not-for-profit probably already ensures that donors receive a receipt with information about claiming a charitable contribution deduction on their tax return. But your obligations may go further than that. For noncash donations, you might have responsibilities related to certain tax forms.

Form 8283 for Donors
When filing their tax returns, donors must attach Section A of Form 8283, “Noncash Charitable Contributions,” if the amount of their deduction for all noncash gifts is more than $500. Only when a single noncash contribution is greater than $5,000 does the donor need to complete Section B, which must be signed by an official of the organization receiving the donation or another person designated by that official. When you return a Schedule B to a donor, the donor should provide you with a full copy of Form 8283.

Donors usually must obtain an appraisal for donated property over $5,000. However, your official’s signature on Section B doesn’t represent concurrence with the appraised value of a donation. It merely acknowledges receipt of the described property on the date specified on the form.

Form 8282 for Not-For-Profits
Your organization generally needs to file Form 8282, “Donee Information Return,” with the IRS if you sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of a donated item within three years of receiving the donation. File the form within 125 days of the disposition unless:

  • The item was valued at $500 or less at the time of the original donation, or
  • The item was consumed or distributed without compensation in furtherance of your exempt purpose. For example, a relief organization that distributes donated medical supplies while aiding disaster victims isn’t required to file Form 8282.

You also must provide a copy of Form 8282 to the donor. When a donated item is transferred from one not-for-profit to another within three years, the transferring organization must provide the successor with its name, address and tax identification number, a copy of the Form 8283 it received from the original donor, and a copy of the Form 8282 within 15 days after filing with the IRS.

Avoidable Consequences
Failing to file required forms can lead to IRS penalties. While your not-for-profit organization may be excused if you show the failure was due to reasonable cause, your donor still stands to lose the tax deduction — a result neither of you want.

Contact us if you have questions.

When a donor promises to make a contribution at a later date, your not-for-profit likely welcomes it. But such pledges can come with complicated accounting issues.

Conditional vs. Unconditional
Let’s say a donor makes a pledge to your not-for-profit in April 2018 to contribute $10,000 in January 2019. You generally will create a pledge receivable and recognize the revenue for the April 2018 financial period. When the payment is received in January 2019, you’ll apply it to the receivable. No new revenue will result in January because the revenue already was recorded.

Of course, you can’t recognize the revenue unless the donor has made a firm commitment and the pledge is unconditional. Several factors might indicate an unconditional pledge. For example:

  • The promise includes a fixed payment schedule.
  • The promise includes words such as “pledge,” “binding” and “agree.”
  • The amount of the promise can be determined.

Conditional promises, on the other hand, could include a requirement that your organization complete a particular project before receiving the contribution or that you send a representative to an event to receive the check in person. Matching pledges are conditional until the matching requirement is satisfied, and bequests are conditional until after the donor’s death.

You generally shouldn’t recognize revenue on conditional promises until the conditions have been met. Your accounting department will require written documentation to support a pledge before recording it, such as a signed agreement that clearly details all of the terms of the pledge, including the amount and timing.

Applying Discounts
Pledges must be recognized at their present value, as opposed to the amount you expect to receive in the future. For a pledge that you’ll receive within a year, you can recognize the pledged amount as the present value. If the pledge will be received further in the future, though, your accounting department will need to calculate present value by applying a discount rate to the amount you expect to receive.

The discount rate is usually the market interest rate, or the interest rate a bank would charge you to borrow the amount of the pledge. Additional entries will be required to remove the discount as time elapses.

Word of Caution
Proper accounting for pledge receivables can be tricky, and if you don’t record them in the right financial period, you could run into audit issues and even put your not-for-profit’s funding in jeopardy.