Schwab Charitable, one of the nation’s largest donor-advised funds, reported record numbers for its 2012 giving season, with increases in both charitable contributions and new accounts.
The San Francisco, Calif.-based fund saw contributions triple and the number of new accounts were almost doubled during Fiscal Year 2012 compared to the same period of 2011. Specifically, contributions stood at $502 million in the previous year, compared to $1.57 billion in FY 2012, and 2,315 new accounts were added in 2012 compared to 1,080 for 2011.
Donor-advised funds allow investors to donate cash or appreciated assets (such as stocks) to a charitable account. This allows them get the best tax benefits possible while supporting charities of their choice. The money in these accounts can be invested while the donor decides where to donate. Account sizes at Schwab range from $5,000 to more than $450 million.
Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable, believes the increases might be a result of the tax uncertainty spurred on by the fiscal cliff debate. “We’re in the process of analyzing all of the data right now, but we think it was a combination of that and organic growth,” said Laughton. “Because of the concern that the estate tax might be significantly changed, a lot of people were doing estate planning, and they included charitable giving in those plans.”
The fiscal cliff deal passed on Jan. 2 increased tax rates to 39.6 for individuals with income of $400,000 or more and joint filers with incomes of $450,000 or more. In addition, itemized deductions were reduced by a fixed percentage for each dollar of income (AGI) above a specified amount (up to 80 percent of the total). In this case, it would be 3 percent above the threshold.
While one element of fiscal cliff has been resolved, more economic uncertainty lays ahead. The looming battle regarding whether to increase the debt ceiling and the potential for tax reform in the coming months make it hard to tell which direction giving will head. Still, Laughton is optimistic that the increases seen in 2012 will continue in the New Year. She noted that many donors and their advisors had planned to delay their giving until 2013 because, since they suspected their tax rates would increase, they would get a bigger deduction.
In addition to the year-end contribution decisions, many advisors and individuals have been actively recommending grants to individuals. “We approved 70 percent more grants in the fourth quarter (of 2012) than we did last year (2011), and we expect to see this granting activity continue through the first quarter because of the many new accounts recently established, she said.