Morgan Stanley
  • Wealth Management
  • Dec 5, 2022

Tax-Savvy Ways to Give

If you’re inclined to help others, consider these tax-efficient ways to make your giving go further.

Many of us prefer to combine our support for the causes and people we care about with a desire to save on taxes. Fortunately, there are strategies that may help us accomplish both. Whether you want to donate to charity or invest in a loved-one’s future, consider these tax‐smart ways to help make your giving go further.

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Give the Gift of Education

Consider giving gifts through a 529 education savings plan. Anyone, including grandparents, can contribute up to $17,000 per year ($34,000 for married couples electing to split gifts) to any individual’s 529 plan in 2023, without incurring federal gift tax or using the federal lifetime gift tax exemption.

Many states offer state income tax deductions to residents who contribute to their own state’s plan, while some states offer tax deductions regardless of which plan you invest in.

Additionally, unique to 529 plans, the federal tax code allows you to front load up to five times the annual gift tax exclusion in a single year.1 Single individuals are therefore able to contribute up to $85,000 per recipient in a single year, while married couples electing to split gifts can contribute up to $170,000 per recipient in 2023.

If you have the means, you can even take advantage of six-year gift tax averaging. To do this, you can contribute one year's worth of gifts in December, followed by five years’ worth of contributions in January, effectively making six years’ worth of contributions in just two months.2 Also note that 529 plan account owners may take federal income tax-free 529 plan distributions not only for qualified higher education expenses, but also for certain primary and secondary education expenses, apprenticeship expenses and student loan repayments.3

Morgan Stanley offers the Morgan Stanley National Advisory 529 Plan, the first 529 plan of its kind, available nationwide, exclusively to Morgan Stanley clients. You can select from goals-based asset allocation portfolios, guided by Morgan Stanley thought leaders, that align with your unique time frame, risk profile and goals, while gaining access to institutional caliber fund managers and pricing. Speak with your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor or Private Wealth Advisor and your personal tax and legal advisors to determine whether this strategy might be appropriate for you. 

Reduce Estate Taxes with Financial Gifts

Make financial gifts before year end to help reduce estate taxes. You can gift up to $17,000 ($34,000 for married couples electing to split gifts) per recipient to an unlimited number of individuals in 2023 without incurring a federal gift tax. Note that you can’t carry over unused annual exclusions from one year to the next. The transfers may help your family as a whole pay fewer taxes if you give income-earning property to family members in lower income tax brackets. The annual exclusion doesn’t count against the federal gift tax exemption of $12.92 million for individuals or $25.84 million for married couples in 2023.4  It is noteworthy that gifts in the form of tuition payments made directly to an educational organization, as well as medical expense payments made directly to the provider, are not taxable gifts and do not count against your annual exclusion for gifts or reduce your federal lifetime gift tax exemption. 

Consider Available Tax Benefits When Choosing Which Assets to Donate from Your Investment Portfolio

Securities can be donated to qualified charitable organizations, and the tax benefits depend in part upon whether they have appreciated or depreciated in value relative to purchase price. For instance, if securities have appreciated since purchase and have unrealized capital gains, donating the securities themselves would allow individuals to take a deduction in the year the donation is made and avoid paying capital gains tax on the appreciation. In contrast, if securities are donated which have unrealized capital losses, individuals could potentially miss an opportunity to realize those losses and subsequently offset realized capital gains. Therefore, in the case that an individual is considering the donation of securities with embedded losses, it may be prudent to sell the securities first in order to realize the losses, and then donate the proceeds of the sale to a qualified charity for an additional federal income tax deduction.

Note that donating securities that you have owned for more than a year can allow you to take a larger deduction than donating securities that have been held for one year or less.5

Give Through a Donor Advised Fund

donor advised fund (DAF), such as the Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust (MS GIFT), gives taxpayers a tax-efficient way to donate stock, mutual funds or other assets and claim a federal income tax deduction in the year the donation is made.Additionally, these assets can stay invested and potentially grow, tax-free, until you recommend which charities you should to receive a cash donation and the fund.

Use Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs)

You may consider certain charitable planning strategies that benefit from a higher interest rate environment, such as Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs). With a CRAT, a grantor creates and funds an irrevocable trust and receives an income tax charitable deduction for the year the trust is funded. The CRAT subsequently distributes a stated annual annuity amount – in other words, an annual income stream – to non-charitable beneficiaries (e.g. the grantor and grantor’s spouse). The annuity amount is typically a stated percentage of the trust’s value at the time the trust is funded, which must be at least 5%, but no more than 50%. At the end of the term of the trust, the remainder of the assets are distributed to the charity or charities indicated within the trust agreement. When the trust is created, the present value of the charities' remainder interest must be at least 10% of the value of the trust. Higher interest rates can make this strategy more effective, in part because higher interest rates mean that trusts with higher annuity payments to the non-charitable beneficiaries can satisfy the 10% remainder test.. Speak with your tax advisor to see if this strategy may make sense for you.

If you have complex tax planning needs, your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor can connect you to experienced tax professionals at leading U.S.-based providers across the country to assist.

In addition, Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors offer tax-smart techniques and strategies to help you deepen the impact of your giving and potentially reduce the impact of taxes – all year round – as part of our Total Tax 365 approach. Talk to your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor to learn more. 

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