Mark Coffey has more than 20 years of experience in advising clients on pre- and post-retirement planning, education funding, estate planning and business succession and assists clients in the coordination of asset allocation among multiple retirement plan accounts, investments and businesses.

The Columbus Jewish News recently spoke with him about guidance and tips for year-end giving. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

CJN: How can people give at year’s end?

Coffey: Cash is the easiest way to contribute to a charity you support. Since the gift must be received and acknowledged by the charity before Dec. 31, it is wise to not wait until the last minute to make the gift, whether it is by check, an electronic transfer or credit card. Non-cash gifts such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds can be gifted to charity but these take longer to process and need to be initiated three to four weeks prior to year end. Additional types of non-cash giving can include household goods and automobiles, gifts from IRA accounts can be given if the account holder is older than 70 1/2 years old and even mileage to and from charitable activities can be deducted.

CJN: What are the pros and cons of different gifts?

Coffey: Cash or credit card gifts are the easiest to process quickly and are universally accepted. Gifting investments to charity is beneficial if you purchased the investments for less than the current value over a year ago. This is because you are able to deduct the value of the gift based on its value today and when the charity sells it and they do not pay tax on the gain. Gifts of household goods and automobiles may require an appraisal if they exceed a certain value.

CJN: How should people determine how much to give?

Coffey: The number one reason to donate to charity is because you believe in their core mission and want to support them with your gift. How much to give is a matter of budgeting and determining how much you can afford to give. Sometimes people can afford to give more if they do not have to dip into their savings but can instead gift a stock that has appreciated in value.

CJN: What are common types of charitable fraud?

Coffey: There are tons of scams out there preying on people’s emotions and sympathy. Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, scammers were emailing appeals to make donations to fake charities. Always be wary of an unsolicited email, call or text message asking you to provide personal financial information unless you initiated the contact with a reputable organization.

CJN: How do people avoid this fraud?

Coffey: Do not respond to unsolicited offers. Do not act impulsively. If you are not sure, do not proceed. Check with a friend or family member before taking action to get their opinion and advice. Also, give to established organizations that you contact rather than those who contact you.

For more information, look to the Federal Trade Commission’s website, which provides resources to educate consumers on charity scams, at bit.ly/3DTlSGq.

CJN: What are some recent legal changes?

Coffey: Ever since doubling in 2017, the new higher standard deduction amount for tax filers have resulted in most people no longer itemizing their charitable gifts on their tax return thereby making them non-deductible. For a few years the IRS allowed taxpayers who do not itemize the ability to deduct up to $300 of charitable gifts per person on their tax return. That option expired at the end of 2021.

You should still donate if you support the cause but be aware that most tax filers will not be able to deduct their gift. One way to deduct charitable gifts is to bunch several years worth of gifts in one year by donating stock equal to five years of gifts. This can bring your itemized deductions over the standard deduction and help you avoid paying capital gains taxes on the gain of the stock.

CJN: What are the implications of these changes?

Coffey: Taxpayers who donate solely for the tax deduction may not be inclined to make contributions if they can not benefit from the tax deduction. That is why it is important for charities to provide better outreach and communication channels for their donors to follow.

CJN: What are possible upcoming changes?

Coffey: Beginning in 2026, the amount of the federal estate tax exemption reduces in half, subjecting many estates that were exempt from tax to paying federal estate taxes. A charitable gift left at death is a deduction from an estate and thereby reduces the potential tax impact upon death. The amount of the exemption will likely change between now and 2026 but is currently over $6 million, so it impacts a small percentage of the population.