Year-end Philanthropy Good Ideas

Merry Christmas! Since today is Christmas Day, we only have a week to wrap up personal financial necessities before we close out another calendar year. Many of us will take time this week to finish up our charitable giving, perhaps because of the warm and generous feeling that the Christmas season ignites along with some subtle nudges from the charities. I’ll update you on a couple of important items: the “Monterey County Gives!” opportunity and the “Qualified Charitable Distribution” rule.

“Monterey County Gives!” has a website that not only makes it easy to donate to local charities with a credit card and the push of a button on your keyboard, but miraculously increases your donation by up to 20 percent at no cost to you through Dec. 31. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Dan Baldwin, president/CEO of the Community Foundation for Monterey County, says that “Monterey County Gives!” was created in 2000 through a partnership between the Monterey County Weekly and the Community Foundation for Monterey County. In 2009, with key support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Neumeier Poma Investment Counsel, Gives! expanded into the format we have today, and began to utilize a website and online donations. Since then, it has taken off.

In last year’s campaign “Monterey County Gives!” raised just over $1 million. The partnership has raised over $4 million since its inception. Sponsors who provide the matching funds that enhance the amount of your gift include the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Neumeier Poma, Cannery Row Co., and the Ona and Robert Murphy Charitable Trust. You can read all about it at

Qualified Charitable Distributions are back. Last week, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the “Tax Increase Prevention Act,” which extends over 50 tax credits that expired in 2013, some of which will help individual taxpayers and others that help businesses. The extensions are good only for 2014, so they won’t help you with next year’s tax planning, and because it is so late in the year, some may not be of much help anyway. One of the laws the act extends permits Qualified Charitable Distributions from Individual Retirement Accounts for those of you who are over 70 ½ years old. If you followed my advice earlier this year and asked your IRA custodian to pay your required minimum distribution (RMD) directly to a qualified charity, the extension means that you won’t have to include that distribution in your gross income on your tax return. That could mean you will owe less tax and it may even lower your Medicare Part B Premiums.

Even if you have already taken your RMD for 2014, it might still make sense to make your year-end charitable contributions from your IRA. After all, there aren’t many ways to get tax-free money from your IRA account. But hurry up — your custodian will need time to process your request. Again, you have to be over 70 ½ and the check from your IRA custodian has to be payable to the qualified charity, not to you. There is a dollar limit of $100,000.


Kenneth B. Petersen is an investment adviser and principal of Monterey Private Wealth Inc. in Monterey. Send questions concerning investing, taxes, retirement or estate planning to 2340 Garden Road, Suite 202, Monterey 93940 or