Support charities and receive lifetime income with a charitable gift annuity

  • By Fidelity Learning Center
  • Charitable Giving
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Have you ever considered making a significant gift to your alma mater or another charity? If so, you’re not alone. In 2015, individual Americans donated more than $264 billion to charitable organizations1.

Donations to charity might be even higher if donors were more confident they would always have sufficient income in retirement, no matter how long they live. If you share similar concerns, you may want to consider setting up a charitable gift annuity.

A charitable gift annuity is a contract between a donor and a qualified charity in which the donor makes a gift to the charity. In exchange, the charity assumes a legal obligation to provide you and up to one additional beneficiary with a fixed amount of monthly income that continues until the last beneficiary dies.

By definition, a charitable gift annuity is what is referred to as a “split gift.” Part of your gift will be used by the charity immediately for its charitable purposes, and part of the gift is set aside in a reserve account to be invested to support your future income payments. These payments include earnings on the reserve account as well as a return of a portion of the principal in the reserve account. The ratio of these payments—the percentage that is treated as a return of principal versus earnings—depends upon your age.

Income and tax details

When you set up a charitable gift annuity, you can choose to receive income payments for both beneficiaries at the same time, or you can structure it so that payments to the second beneficiary begin only after the death of the primary beneficiary. After the death of the second income beneficiary, the charity receives the remaining value of the annuity.

You can fund a charitable gift annuity with an irrevocable donation of cash, publicly traded securities, or other assets, such as real estate, art, or collectibles. Your donation may earn you an immediate partial tax deduction. The exact amount of your deduction will be based on the number of beneficiaries, their ages at the time of the gift, their life expectancies, and the anticipated income stream they will receive from the annuity.

Donating appreciated securities—rather than cash—to a charitable gift annuity can also help you reduce your capital gains liability while securing a future income stream. Keep in mind, however, that no matter what type of asset you donate to establish a charitable gift annuity, the income you receive from the annuity will be treated as either a return of capital or be subject to federal and state income tax.

Key benefits of charitable gift annuities

  • Secures a source of lifetime income. This income will continue as long as you and/or your beneficiary survive.
  • Preserves the value of highly appreciated assets. A charitable gift annuity allows you to eliminate capital gains tax when you donate long-term appreciated assets—including non-income-producing property. By donating assets in-kind, you will preserve the full fair market value of the assets, rather than reducing it by selling it and paying capital gains taxes. This increases the amount of money potentially available for your annuity income and your charity.
  • Provides income tax deductions. With a charitable gift annuity, you have the potential to take a partial income tax deduction when you fund the annuity. The deduction amount is based on several variables, including the charitable gift annuity yield, which is determined by the charity, and the beneficiaries’ life expectancies.
  • Provide long-term support to your favorite causes. Unlike what happens with an immediate income annuity, the remaining value of your annuity will not pass to an insurance company after you and your beneficiary die. Instead, those assets will go to a charity, such as your alma mater or another charitable organization.

Is a charitable gift annuity right for you?

A charitable gift annuity may be a good option if you want an immediate charitable deduction, but also want to secure a source of lifetime income for yourself and another beneficiary. It is also a good option if you want to eliminate potential capital gains tax and support a charity with a significant donation.

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