How To Donate Stock and Other Financial Gifts

Donate to a good cause and reduce your tax burden at the same time

Man and woman in yellow t-shirts and red caps unboxing charity donations
•••

eclipse_images / Getty Images

If you’ve donated to charity before, you’re probably familiar with the emotional fulfillment that can come from contributing to a cause that’s near and dear to you. But what you may be surprised to learn is that there are actually financial perks to donating financial gifts to charity, whether it be stock, cryptocurrency, credit card points, and everything in between.

Are you considering donating stock or another financial asset to charity? Keep reading to learn how it works, the financial benefits, and everything else you’ll need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • In addition to cash, you can also make charitable donations of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and credit card points.
  • Donating financial assets to charity can reduce your income and capital gains tax burden, which can increase your charitable gift.
  • There are downsides of donating stock and other assets to consider, including how market volatility can impact the size of your gift.

Benefits of Donating Stocks and Other Financial Gifts

The obvious benefit of donating stocks and other financial gifts to charity is that you can support a cause that’s important to you. In addition, there are some key financial benefits to be aware of, too

Tax Deductions

First, taxpayers who itemize their deductions can take a tax deduction for donations to qualified organizations, if they meet certain record-keeping criteria. When you give a noncash gift, you may be able to deduct the fair market value of the gift. 

Annual income tax deduction limits for noncash gifts to public charities, including donor-advised funds, is 30% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

While you need to maintain records for all noncash gifts, for those where the deduction is greater than $500, the donor must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, along with their tax return. For any gifts where the deduction exceeds $5,000, you would require a qualified appraisal.

Saving on Capital Gains Tax

Another benefit to donating financial assets is that you can avoid capital gains tax and use that to increase your gift. When you sell an appreciated asset, the IRS generally requires that you pay capital gains taxes on the profit. 

If you sold an asset and donated the proceeds to charity, a part of that money would have to be used to cover your tax liability. But when you donate the appreciated asset to charity, you can avoid those capital gains taxes and donate the full amount to charity.

For example, if you bought 1,000 shares of XYZ stock for $10 per share in 2018, your cost-basis, or the value used to determine capital gains tax, would be $10,000 (1,000 x $10). If the stock now trades at $20 per share, the value of those shares is $20,000. If you sold those shares, assuming a 15% long-term capital gains tax rate, you’d need to pay $1,500 in capital gains tax on the $10,000 gain you made on the sale. 

Assuming no state taxes and, no medicare surtax, this is what the math would look like if you donated those shares instead:

Donate Stock
  • Capital Gains Tax = 0

  • Amount available to charity that can be claimed as deduction = $20,000

  • Higher deduction means additional tax savings

Donate Stock Sale Proceeds
  • Capital Gains Tax = $1,500

  • Amount available to charity that can be claimed as deduction = $18,500 ($20,000 -$1,500)

  • Lower deduction implies lower tax savings

Not only do you save on capital gains tax, increasing the value of the gift to the charity, but you are also able to generate additional tax savings due to higher deduction.

Increase in Value

Historically, long-term investments in stocks and other financial assets have reaped generous returns. Donating financial assets that the charity doesn’t sell right away and holds on to for a long time could increase the value of that gift manifold.

Donating Stocks

If you own shares in a company, you can gift those shares to a charity of your choice. The process for doing so depends largely on the type of stock you wish to gift.

When it comes to gifting shares in a publicly traded company, the process is quite simple. You can sample the shares directly to the account of the charity you’re planning to donate to. To accomplish this, you’ll have to obtain information from the charity about the account the shares will be transferred into. Some charities list this information directly on their website for prospective donors.

Some online brokerage firms like Fidelity and Schwab have certain types of brokerage accounts you can use for your charitable gifting.

For stocks other than those that are publicly traded, the process might be a bit more difficult. In the case of restricted stock, for example, there are certain restrictions around their sale and you may need to gain permission from the company’s general counsel to donate the stock.

Donating Bonds

A bond is a debt security that can result in profit through the interest payments the issuing entity makes to the bondholder, as well as the potential appreciation of the bond if you sell it for more than you bought it before it reaches maturity. And luckily, the process of donating or gifting bonds to charity is quite similar to the process of donating stock. You simply need to own the bond and have the account information for where to transfer it.

While you can donate many types of bonds, you can’t donate all bonds. Savings bonds are a unique type of bond that can’t be transferred to another party. 

In the case of savings bonds, there are a few workarounds that allow you to support the charity of your choice with this type of asset.

First, you can redeem the savings bond and use the proceeds to make a donation to charity. (Keep in mind that this eliminates some of the tax benefits that can come with donating financial assets to charity.) Another option is to purchase a savings bond as a gift for the charity rather than in your own name. Finally, you can leave your savings bond to the charity of your choice through your will or charitable remainder trust.

Donating Cryptocurrency

While some people consider cryptocurrency to be another form of currency, just like dollars, the IRS doesn’t see it that way. Rather than seeing cryptocurrency as legal tender, the federal government considers cryptocurrency to be an asset, just like a stock or a bond. It could also be considered a form of compensation if you received it as a reward for mining, or something else.

The process of gifting cryptocurrency to a charity is a bit different from stocks and bonds, simply because these digital assets aren’t generally in the same brokerage accounts where we keep other investments, and it requires the charity to have a way to accept the cryptocurrency.

Luckily, many charities have taken note of the rise in popularity of cryptocurrency and have made arrangements to accept them as donations. To find out if you can donate cryptocurrency to your favorite charity, simply visit its website or contact it directly.

Donating Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs)

One of the newer financial assets on the investing scene is the non-fungible token (NFT). An NFT is essentially a digital representation of an asset that has a single, verifiable owner. Things like art, music, and even tweets can be turned into NFTs.

The value of an NFT to a charity isn’t as clear as with a financial asset like cash, stock, or even cryptocurrency. However, they are gathering steam as a fundraising tool for charities. 

There have been plenty of examples of people donating the proceeds of an NFT to charity. That was the case with an NFT that former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold of his first tweet, and a series of NFTs created by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Depending on the asset, you may also find a charity willing to accept an NFT to auction it off itself.

It’s important to note that the tax consequences of NFTs aren’t entirely clear. While NFT gifts in excess of annual gift tax exclusions are subject to gift tax, there's little IRS guidance on tax consequences of charitable donations, and charities may be hesitant to accept them for that reason, among others.

Donating Credit Card Points

You might be surprised to learn that if you have unused credit card points, you can also donate those to charity. And not only is it possible, but credit card companies and loyalty programs encourage it by making it as easy as possible for you. When you log into your account with American Express, Discover, and other programs, you’ll be given the option of donating your points to one of their connected charities.

Other nonprofit organizations specifically seek out frequent flyer miles or credit card travel points. For example, the organization Miles4Migrants uses donated points to help refugees and asylum-seekers fly to be reunited with loved ones.

Limitations of Donating Financial Gifts

While there are many benefits of donating stocks and other financial assets to charity, there are also potential downsides to be aware of.

First, some charities may prefer not to receive noncash assets, or may not accept them at all. If they find cash donations more convenient, then that may be the only option. After all, by gifting stock or another asset, you create another step for the charity where they likely have to sell it to use the proceeds for the benefit of the organization.

To claim a tax deduction, your gift must be made to a charity deemed eligible by the IRS. Use this tool on the IRS website to see if the organization you want to donate to makes the cut.

Another potential downside is that because of the volatility of the market, the value of an asset when you gift it may not necessarily be its value when the charity sells it. 

For example, suppose you gifted a stock and then the market experienced a correction. A stock that you donated at $100 may suddenly be worth only $75. While this doesn’t financially disadvantage you, it means the charity isn’t receiving as much as you intended.

The Bottom Line

Donating stock and other financial gifts can benefit you in both emotional and financial ways. It allows you to support a good cause while reducing your tax burden. But before you donate one of these assets to your favorite charity, double-check that the charity actually accepts this type of donation and that you fully understand how it works.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you check out a charity before you donate?

You can visit organizations such as Charity Watch and Charity Navigator to verify how charities use the funds they receive as donations. The role of these groups is to rate charities based on their financial health, transparency, accountability, and more. Your next stop should be the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool to look into an organization’s tax status and verify that donations to the organization are actually tax-deductible

How much do you have to donate to charity for a tax break?

There’s no minimum amount that you must donate to charity to claim it on your taxes.To claim the charitable contribution deduction, you must itemize your deductions and maintain records of the gifts. But it only makes sense to itemize if the amount you can claim exceeds the standard deduction, which is $12,550 for single filers and $25,100 for joint filers in tax year 2021. When you’re deciding if a charitable donation will help reduce your tax burden, consider what other deductions you’re eligible for, too.

Article Sources