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Best Last Minute Tax Deduction at The End of The Year: Charitable Remainder Trust

Roger McClure Dec. 30, 2009

Have Taxable Income or Gain. If you had substantial income or have a large taxable gain in 2009 or will in future years, the best end of year tax savings technique is often the Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT). This is because with a CRT, you can obtain a large tax deduction even if you wait until the end of the year. Many of the other techniques that taxpayers used in the past for end of year tax deductions have been severely limited. With the CRT, you retain some control over the asset, receive income from it, get an immediate tax deduction and postpone or avoid capital gains on the sale of the asset.

What is a CRT? A CRT is a trust which you create and to which you contribute assets such as stocks or free and clear real estate. The CRT then sells the asset and because the CRT is similar to a charity which pays no income taxes for charitable activities, the CRT does not pay any capital gains at the time of the sale of the property. Depending on how you set up the CRT, you may never pay any capital gain taxes on the sale of the asset.

*Planning A Must. The first step is to plan the CRT, which involves integrating your CRT into your financial, business and estate plan:

Not Too Big and Not Too Small Deduction. You generally want to maximize the deductions you will receive in the year of the gift. The deduction is calculated based upon IRS tables which predict how much the charity will receive. If you contribute $100,000 in 2009 to the CRT and the IRS tables say the charity is predicted to receive $30,000, you receive a $30,000 deduction from your taxes in 2009. If you exceed the maximum deductable level for charitable deductions in year 2009, you can carry forward the deduction to use in future years, with certain limitations. You do not want to give too much or too little.
Charity Minimum Ten Percent. The charity has to receive at least 10% of the total gift. If you are below 50 years of age, you may not be able to use your lifetime as the time for the payments back to you from the CRT and may have to use a maximum of 20 years before the assets go to the charity. As part of the planning, we run computer calculations of the results of different options.
*Payout Rate. You have to decide the annual rate at which the CRT will pay you. It has to be at least 5% and not more than 50% and it can be fixed or dependent upon earnings or the value of the property. The pay out rate is the rate at which you will receive income for your life or the set period of the CRT.
*Distributions Taxed. You pay taxes on the distributions if they are ordinary income or capital gains, but not return of principal or tax exempt income.
*Postpone Income Taxes. If you will have high income for the next several years, high taxes and do not want to receive any payments which would be subject to taxes, you can set the CRT up so that the CRT does not make payments to you during the high income years through the use of financial instruments such as an annuity or family limited partnerships. You can turn the cash flow spigot on or off depending upon your future cash needs. The IRS is watching for abuses.
*Appraisals. If you contribute to the CRT real estate or a hard to value asset such as an interest in a closely held business, you must have an independent appraisal and a special independent trustee involved in the process.
*You are the Trustee. You can be the trustee of the trust, but there are self dealing limitations.
*Option to Change Charity Designated. You initially name the charity, but you can retain the right to change the charity. Properly planned, your family foundation may become a beneficiary.
*Exempt from Estate Taxes. The assets in the CRT will not be part of your taxable estate and you do not use up any of your exemptions from estate taxes by use of the CRT.
*Replace the Inheritance. Since the assets go to the charity upon your passing and not to your heirs, you can decide to replace those assets with life insurance. If is possible to so design a CRT in many cases where the net tax and other financial advantages provide enough additional cash to pay for the insurance.
*Money is in the CRT. Once established, you can not change the rules of the CRT and take back the asset. You have to be able financially to not have this as an asset that you must liquidate to pay bills. However, with the deferred income CRT, you can sell assets in the CRT when you need money so that you receive all of the distributions you did not receive over the prior years.

Your Team of Advisors. There are exceptions and many details to this planning not discussed above which you do not need to know in order to accomplish your goals. The key point is that there is a way to obtain large last minute tax deductions at the end of the year. The CRT will be used more in the future as capital gains rates, income tax rates and estate tax rates increase in the coming years. If you want to plan for the coming higher taxes, we will assemble your team of advisors to use the tools permitted under the law to lessen the blow of these higher taxes on you.