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Donate Appreciated Assets to Charity Instead of Selling Outright for Tax and Income Benefits Using a

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

The end of the year makes us all think about how we may be able to save on taxes. If you have highly appreciated assets like stock and real estate that you would like to sell, it may make sense to use a charitable remainder trust (CRT) to avoid income and estate taxes—all while creating a lifetime income stream for yourself or your family AND supporting your favorite charity.  

A CRT is a gift of cash or other property to a tax-exempt irrevocable trust. The donor receives an income stream from the trust for a term of years or for life and the named charity receives the remaining trust assets at the end of the trust term. The CRT is a “split-interest” trust, meaning it provides financial benefits to both the charity and a non-charitable beneficiary. With CRTs, the non-charitable beneficiary—you, your child, spouse, or another heir—receives annual income from the trust, and whatever assets “remain” at the end of the donor’s lifetime (or a fixed period up to 20 years), pass to the named charity or charities of your choice.

How a CRT works You set up a CRT by naming a trustee, an income beneficiary, and a charitable beneficiary. The trustee will sell, manage, and invest the trust’s assets to produce income that is paid to you or another beneficiary.

The trustee can be yourself, a charity, another person, or a third-party entity. The trustee is responsible for seeing that your wishes are carried out properly and for managing the trust assets in accordance with complex state and federal laws. Be sure that the trustee you choose is well-versed in trust administration.

With the CRT set up, you transfer your appreciated assets into the trust, and the trustee sells it. Normally, this would generate capital gains taxes. Instead with the CRT, you get a charitable deduction for the donation and face no capital gains when the assets are sold. Once the appreciated assets are sold, the proceeds (which have not been taxed) are invested to produce income. As long as the asset remains in the trust, the income is not subject to taxes.

Income options You have two options for how the trust income is paid out. You can receive an annual fixed payment using a “charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT).” With this option, your income will not change, regardless of the trust’s investment performance. Or you can be paid a fixed percentage of the trust’s assets using a “charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT),” whereby the payouts fluctuate depending on the trust’s investment performance and value.

Tax benefits

You can take an immediate income tax deduction within the year the trust was created for the value of your donation—limited to 30% of adjusted gross income. You can carry over any excess into subsequent tax returns for up to five years. Profits from appreciated assets sold by the trustee are not subject to capital gains taxes while they are in the trust. Plus, when the trust assets finally pass to the charity, that donation will not be subject to estate taxes. 

You will pay income tax on income from the CRT at the time it is distributed. Whether that tax is capital gains or ordinary income depends on where the income came from—distributions of principal are tax-free.

If you have highly appreciated assets you would like to sell while minimizing tax impact, maximizing income, and benefiting charity, consult with us so we can find the best planning options for you.

This article is a service of Reflections Life Planning LLC. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you have ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

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