05-24-2018 Columns

                                                                  You can still gain tax benefits from charitable donations

Like most people, you probably know several organizations worthy of your philanthropy, and you may well have contributed to them, perhaps on an annual basis. In the past, when you’ve made charitable donations, it’s been a win-win: You were able to provide support to a worthy organization and you received some valuable tax benefits. But with the passage of the new tax laws, things may have changed considerably for many people. Are there still tax benefits to making a charitable donation? Here’s some background: Previously, you may have been able to deduct your charitable donations if you itemized deductions on your income tax return. So, for example, if you were in the 25 percent tax bracket and you gave $1,000 to a qualified charity, you may have been able to deduct $250. But under the new tax laws, the standard deduction is almost doubled for 2018, to $24,000 for joint filers, and $12,000 for single filers. As a result, far fewer people are likely to itemize their deductions. If you’re in this group, you may find that you have less incentive, at least for tax reasons, to make charitable gifts. However, receiving a tax deduction is not the only tax benefit of making a charitable gift. If you own an IRA and you’re 70-1/2 or older, you generally must start taking withdrawals – technically called required minimum distributions, or RMDs – from your traditional IRA. (Roth IRAs are not subject to RMDs until after the death of the owner.) If instead of withdrawing the money, the IRA owner decides to transfer the funds directly to a qualified charity, the distributed amount can be excluded from the IRA owner’s income. So, in effect, you can get a sizable tax benefit from your generosity. In fact, you may be able to move up to $100,000 from your IRA per year to an eligible charity and have it count as your RMDs, even if the amount donated is more than the required minimum withdrawal. Even if you aren’t 70-1/2 yet, you might still gain some tax benefits from certain types of charitable donations. When you itemized, and you donated appreciated stocks, you were generally allowed a charitable deduction for the full fair market value of the stocks on the date of the transfer, even if your original cost was only a fraction of that value. Now, if you don’t itemize, that charitable contribution is not deductible, but you can still avoid the capital gains taxes you’d have to pay if you sold the securities, rather than donating them. Finally, you could name a qualified charity as a beneficiary of your IRA or 401(k). This can allow the assets to pass free of income tax to the charitable group. Given the increased standard deduction resulting from the new tax laws, many charitable groups are worried about the potential loss of contributions. Nonetheless, as we’ve seen, you can still find ways to get some tax benefits from your own charitable gifts. And you’ll still get the same satisfaction from supporting a good cause. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

It is an honor to serve you! Recently, I pushed for much-needed improvements to our educational work-study programs and for better securing our fundamental right to vote. Students should be allowed to gain course credit for completing internship or work-study programs in high school. An internship adds real-world experience for college students, and it only makes sense to encourage these opportunities for high schoolers as well. We recently introduced a plan that gives Michigan an edge over other states by developing professional skills in our young people. Both job creators and students will benefit from this measure because businesses across the state need students with real-world experience. This program gives our students the ability to work with companies in Berrien County to take advantage of the unique career opportunities in their own backyard. It’s time we allow career exploration and on-the-job training to become an acceptable part of education. Additionally, people are more concerned than ever about the security of our elections and it is up to us to do something about it. This starts with ensuring our voter rolls are updated promptly and efficiently when someone passes away or moves to another state to eliminate the possibility of voter fraud. To do this, legislation was recently approved by the House requiring the Michigan Secretary of State to keep a list of people who are registered and qualified to vote up to date by checking it against the U.S. Social Security Administration’s death records. The state would also participate in a multi-state program sharing information about the current address and registration status of voters. With these changes, the people of Michigan will have increased confidence in election security. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to me. You can call 517-373-1403 or email me at KimLaSata@house.mi.gov.

A time to remember America’s fallen heroes On Memorial Day, families will fire up the grill or head out to see the latest blockbuster movie. As you enjoy your day, I encourage you to take some time to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day. It is a time for us to remember the brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our country and celebrate everything they fought and died to protect. We certainly would not enjoy the blessings we do here in Southwest Michigan if it were not for the selfless courage of America’s real-life heroes. I encourage all Southwest Michigan residents to do something this Memorial Day to honor the brave men and women who gave the full measure in defense of liberty. Residents can pay their respects by attending a local ceremony or parade, flying the flag at home at half-staff from sunrise to noon, or participating in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Decorating the graves of our fallen soldiers remains a time-honored heritage, and you can join an army of volunteers who will be adorning the final resting place of thousands of servicemen and servicewomen with American flags. When you look upon the sea of waving flags, recognize the sacrifice also made by their families. I hope we as Americans never lose sight of the meaning of this day. Our nation remains strong today because patriots defended our liberty. Too often they never returned home. Their sacrifice is the true cost of freedom and it must never be taken for granted or forgotten. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.


This bipartisan bill contains major reforms that will help our veterans in Southwest Michigan and across the country. It continues investment in long-term VA strength and success coupled with major reforms allowing greater choice for veterans. Voting to improve the lives of our veterans, and their families, is always the easiest vote I cast. This marks a win for improved veteran health care and choice. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Skin cancer awareness

May, National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, is a good time to remember that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable, but can be disfiguring and costly. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk, like having a history of sunburns; exposure to the sun through work and play; a lighter natural skin color; skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun; and a personal or family history of skin cancer. When you’re having fun outdoors, it’s easy to forget how important it is to protect yourself from the sun. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays in as little as 15 minutes. Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need protection; clouds do not block UV rays. Take precautions against sun exposure every day of the year, especially during midday hours (10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.), when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage. While you enjoy being outdoors this spring and summer, be sure to protect yourself from skin cancer by seeking shade, wearing sunglasses, a hat, and sun-protective clothing, and using sunscreen. For more information about skin cancer and how to protect yourself, visit www.skincancer.org. Find information on this and other health topics at the Berrien County Health Department’s website at www.bchdmi.org and Facebook page www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

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