12-06-2018 Columns

Three factors to consider when making charitable gifts The holiday season is here, which means gift-giving is probably on your mind. In addition to making gifts to your family and friends, you also may be interested in contributing to charitable organizations. But before you donate financial assets, such as stocks, you will need to consider several factors, including taxes, your portfolio balance and the reputation of the charity. Let’s look at these areas: Taxes – Your donations to qualified charities (those that are considered 501(c)(3) organizations by the Internal Revenue Service) can give you tax deductions – if you itemize deductions on your tax return. However, due to recent tax law changes, the standard deduction for 2018 has almost doubled, to $24,000 for married couples and to $12,000 for single filers. As a result, you may be less likely to itemize deductions, so you could have less incentive, at least for tax reasons, to make charitable gifts. However, if you give appreciated stocks, you may be allowed a charitable deduction for the full fair market value of the gift on the date of the transfer, even if your original cost was only a fraction of today’s value. Plus, you may not be subject to the capital gains tax you might have to pay if you eventually sold the stocks. Also, depending on your age, you might be able to use your traditional IRA as a charitable-funding vehicle. Once you turn 70-1/2, you generally must begin taking withdrawals – called required minimum distributions or RMDs – from your traditional IRA. (Roth IRAs are not subject to RMDs during your lifetime.) These RMDs from your traditional IRA are taxable, but you may be able to exclude up to $100,000 of RMDs per year from your taxable income if you transfer the funds directly to qualified charitable organizations. In any case, consult with your tax advisor before donating appreciated assets to a charity. Portfolio balance – When you donate financial assets to a charity, you are also taking them away from your portfolio. This could be an issue, especially if you repeatedly donate the same types of assets. For example, if you’re donating some growth-oriented stocks, will you lower the overall growth potential of your portfolio? You may want to consult with a financial professional to ensure your charitable gifts will still allow you to maintain a portfolio balance appropriate for your goals and risk tolerance. Reputation of the charity – You may want to do some homework to make sure you are giving to a reputable charity. Many experts on charitable giving say that a worthwhile charity should spend at least 75 percent of its income on programs, rather than administrative costs. You may be able to find this type of information on a charitable group’s annual report and its website. You can also browse the web for the names of agencies that evaluate charitable groups. By considering the aspects of charitable giving described above, you can get more satisfaction from your generosity – because you’ll know that your gift not only supports a good cause, but also fits well into your overall financial picture. 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. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Lauren’s Law helps increase organ donor registrations There is a tremendous need for organ transplants, with over 115,000 men, women and children nationwide currently in need of a lifesaving organ transplant, including more than 3,100 people here in our state. Another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and an average of 22 people die each day waiting for an organ. I sponsored Lauren’s Law to help dramatically increase the number of registered organ donors in our state, and we are seeing its positive results. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson recently announced that 66 percent of Michigan adults are now registered as organ donors. Especially during the holidays, it is wonderful to hear that two-thirds of all eligible Michigan residents have signed up to give the gift of life — up from only 27 percent in 2011. Lauren’s Law requires the secretary of state’s office to ask whether someone wishes to be added to the organ donor registry when applying for a driver’s license. The act is named after Lauren Shields, who at age 9 was placed on life support while waiting for a heart transplant and helped pass a similar law in New York. I want to remind Southwest Michigan residents that there remains a critical need for donors. Becoming an organ donor might just be the most impactful thing in someone else’s life that any of us ever do. Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of age or medical history. Residents can sign up at www.michigan.gov/organdonation, by calling 866-500-5801 or by visiting any secretary of state office. 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.

What to know about Proposal 1 As many of you are aware, the recreational marijuana ballot initiative known as Proposal 1 passed with wide support on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Since ballot initiatives become law 10 days after election results are certified, recreational marijuana will go into effect no later than Dec. 6. This will be a major change to state law and I want to make sure you know what’s coming. Under the new law, people 21 and older will be allowed to: possess, consume, and transport 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana for recreational purposes; possess and process up to 10 ounces of marijuana and up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes for personal use; give up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to another person 21 or older without payment; and use, manufacture, possess, and purchase marijuana accessories. Not authorized under the law are the following actions: Operating a motor vehicle while consuming or under the influence of marijuana; smoking marijuana in the passenger area of a vehicle on a public street; selling or transferring marijuana to someone under the age of 21; consuming marijuana in a public place, except in designated areas not accessible to individuals who are under 21 in a municipality that allows for such designated areas; possessing or consuming marijuana on school grounds; and smoking marijuana where prohibited by the property owner. Any marijuana sold at commercial establishments will be subject to a 10% excise tax, on top of normal sales tax. Municipalities can prohibit or limit the number of marijuana establishments within their boundaries and employers will still be able to prohibit employees from working under the influence or using on work property and can still fire, discipline, or refuse to hire people who do not meet their workplace policies. If you have any questions about the implementation of this new law, you may contact my office by emailing kimlasata@house.mi.gov or calling 517-373-1403.

Remembering President Bush On Saturday, we awoke to the tragic news of the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. He leaves behind a powerful legacy as a war hero, statesman, and consummate public servant. Above all else, he was a dedicated family man. A husband, father, and grandfather whose faith guided his life in everything he endeavored.

The World War II generation often spoke to the rest of us about the character and standing of our nation. President Bush’s passing certainly reminds us what we desire in our leaders: compassion, honesty, trust, grit, and a duty to try and do the right thing.

I knew President Bush well from my days in the Reagan White House with his office right around the corner from mine. His was among the first congratulatory calls on my first election win. I also fondly recall campaigning together in New Hampshire, and traveling together on Air Force One and Two. Never a day he let his country down.

He now joins his wife Barbara in eternal peace. Amey and I join with all Americans to celebrate his life and mourn his death.

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).

It’s not too late for a flu vaccine As long as flu viruses are spreading, it’s not too late to get a vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones. Flu season typically peaks between December and February but significant activity can occur as late as May. For millions of people every season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. However, you may not realize that each flu season, flu also causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths. But there is a vaccine that can prevent flu. While how well the vaccine works can vary, the benefits from vaccination are well documented. Studies show that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. This is why CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Some people are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. This includes young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with certain medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes or heart disease. For those at high risk for complications, getting the flu vaccine is especially important. It’s also important to get the vaccine if you care for anyone at high risk, including babies younger than 6 months because they are too young to get the vaccine. You can get a flu vaccine in a variety of places, including at your doctor’s office, pharmacies, and at the Berrien County Health Department. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of recommended vaccines. For more information about influenza or the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or call the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-8121 or visit www.bchdmi.org.