The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 raised the standard deduction for US taxpayers and capped the state and local tax deduction at $10,000. This greatly reduced the number of taxpayers who itemize on their tax return and caused a major reduction in charitable giving.
Taxpayers who itemize can reduce their income by the amount that they give to eligible charities and charitable organizations, and thus pay less in taxes.
When you pay taxes you (or let's be real – your accountants) add up all of your deductions (charity donations, student loan interest, et cetera) and if it's more than the standard deduction of $12,400 for single people ($24,800 for married couples filing jointly), you can reduce your income by that amount and pay taxes on that amount.
Since the standard deduction is now higher, less people are itemizing all their deductions as they don't expect to exceed the standard deduction. This disincentives people from giving to charities as they won't be able to use that donation to lower their tax burden.
This year offers a special opportunity thanks to the CARES Act.
The CARES Act was passed in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and offered a special incentive for people to give more to charities, many of which are facing more demand than ever as the pandemic rages on.
Starting in 2020, up to $300 in charitable contributions may be used as an above-the-line deduction, meaning that you would be able to deduct up to $300 in charity donations and mutual funds even if you take the standard deduction.
Let's say you are a single person that lives in Washington State and make $60,000 a year. Your top Federal tax rate is 22% and you pay no state tax in Washington.
Now, you're very likely to take a standard deduction of $12,400, meaning you would only need to pay taxes on $47,600 of adjusted gross income, lowering your tax bill by $2,728 (22% of $12,400).
But, thanks to the CARES Act, if you also give $300 in charitable contributions to charity this year, you would be able to deduct that money as well, reducing your taxes by an additional $66.
A few caveats with this. First, you have to give to a qualified public charity. Check on their website that you are giving to a 501(c)3 organization before you give. You can also check on the IRS website for a list of organizations you may be able to donate to.
Second, it has to be cash giving, so giving your old sweater to Goodwill unfortunately doesn't count. Third, if you give over $250 to an organization, you have to get a "written acknowledgement" of the gift. That just means you want to be sure to ask for a receipt when you send the money to the charity.
A lot of charities have been hit very hard because of COVID-19, and making sure that they have the resources available to continue to help people can be really important for the people who rely on the generosity of others.
With the CARES Act, you can help make sure that charities you believe in are able to continue their work while also saving yourself money come tax time. It might be time to speak with a financial advisor to set charitable goals for 2020 and 2021.If interested in opening a charitable giving account, we recommend Fidelity Charitable. They can help identify private foundations and charities to support, as well as recommend grants. Over time you can grow your donor advised funds, tax free and look into donating stocks or donating with a credit card.
Fidelity Charitable also provides a helpful charitable giving tax savings calculator.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.