Why I Donated Shares of Stock To Charity

green key with text Donate on white laptop keyboard.
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For most people, charitable contributions are mostly about what matters most to them — a way to help those in need or to begin righting a wrong.

However, charitable contributions are also an excellent way for some earners to reduce their tax burden. And if you’re interested in maximizing the benefit to both yourself and the organization you’re contributing to, donating stocks can be a win-win situation that’s hard to pass up.

Personally, I donated my stock so I could avoid paying capital gains taxes on my returns, ultimately making for a larger contribution for the nonprofit and a larger deduction for me.So, while donating a stock might not be your first impulse, there are a number of reasons why you should seriously consider it.

Donating Appreciated Stock to Charity

Donating stock to charity ended up being a win-win for both me and the organization I donated to. Donating stock allowed me to deduct the full market value of the stock from my taxable income. Essentially, I took a capital gain that I would otherwise owe taxes on and converted it into a deduction that saved me getting taxed on my annual income. And the charity got a larger donation than it would have received had Isold the stock and paid capital gains tax before I donated.

There are some rules, though, dictating just how much tax benefit you can claim from a donation of stock. The first important consideration is the cap on charitable deductions. Generally, you’re allowed to reduce your taxable income up to a maximum of 50% of your adjusted gross income with charitable non-cash contributions. However, that cap is reduced to 30% for donated stocks that you held longer than one year and would have been subject to capital gains taxes had you sold it at fair market value.

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You also should consider your other charitable contributions as the 50% cap on deductions applies to your total combined contributions. So, if you’ve made a donation of stock that’s 30% of your taxable income and donations of cash that are another 40% (wow, good for you!), you would only be able to deduct a portion of your cash contributions before hitting the donation maximum. In that case, your tax advisor can let you know whether you should save some of that cash to donate in the next tax year.

How To Donate Depreciated Stocks to Charity

It’s also important to note that in the event that the stock has lost value, the benefits are greatly reduced. In that instance, selling and then making a donation in cash makes more sense. By realizing a capital loss, you can reduce capital gains elsewhere to reduce your tax burden and the deduction for your charitable contribution — and the size of your donation — would remain the same.

How It Might Work

Here’s a hypothetical example of how a donation of stock can be of greater benefit for both you and your favorite charity.

Say you have $10,000 of stock that you purchased at a price of $5,000 some 10 years earlier. Even if your plan is to donate all of the proceeds from the sale to charity, you’ll have to make your donation after you pay taxes on those capital gains. So, if your annual income as a single filer is less than $459,750, or below $517,200 for people who are married filing jointly, you’ll owe 15% in capital gains tax on that $5,000 gain you just realized — or $750. So, you’ll have $9,250 left to give to your favorite charity, should you choose to sell and then donate the cash.

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But with a donation in stock, you can give the $10,000 in stock directly to the charity so you won’t have to pay that $750 in capital gains tax. Once more, since your donation is now the full $10,000, that same $750 you would have owed in taxes is now money you can deduct from your taxable income as a charitable contribution. And the charity gets another $750. Win-win.

Strategies for Maximizing Your Tax Benefit

In addition to offering a great way to get even more mileage out of your charitable giving, the personal benefits can be considerable.

For starters, higher earners who have some portion of their income falling into one of the higher tax brackets could receive a double whammy of benefits. Not only are you effectively skipping out on the capital gains tax, but you’re reducing the portion of your income that you might be paying anywhere between 22% and 37% in taxes on.

There also is an opportunity to use donations to your favorite organizations to rebalance your portfolio. If you have plans for making charitable contributions this year while you’re also concerned that a specific holding is taking up too large a portion of your investments, you could accomplish two things at once by using that stock you otherwise would be selling to make your donation.

Finally, if you’re a more active trader or someone who enjoys being a hands-on portfolio manager, you might see a donation of a top-performing stock as a way to sell high without actually selling. If you’re seeing signs that make you think a stock is near its peak, you’re likely considering a sale. In that case, you might reap considerable benefits to reducing that especially large taxable capital gain — and if you’re in a top tax bracket — potentially seeing a big reduction in your income taxes while you’re at it.

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Strengthen Your Giving by Donating Stock

Donating stock might feel a little unorthodox for a lot of people (it definitely did for me at first), but it can have significant benefits for your taxes, especially if you have a high annual income. Donating stock reduced my taxable income and let me avoid paying taxes on a capital gain, while supporting an organization I really care about.

If this sounds like a good idea to you, consult your tax advisor or tax attorney to begin plotting a strategy to donate some stocks to a favorite charitable organization.

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Sam DiSalvo and Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting for this article.


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