The IRS has released new proposed rules related to charitable contributions made to get around the $10,000/$5,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. The proposed regulations:
- incorporate the safe harbor in Notice 2019-12 for individuals who have any portion of a charitable deduction disallowed to the receipt of SALT benefits;
- incorporate the safe harbor in Revenue Procedure (Rev. Proc.) 2019-12 for business entities to deduct certain payments made to a charitable organization in exchange for SALT benefits; and
- clarify the application of the quid pro quo principle under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 170 to benefits received or expected to be received by the donor from a third party.
An individual’s itemized deduction of SALT is limited to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) for tax years beginning after 2017. Some states and local governments have adopted laws that allowed individuals to receive a state tax credit for contributions to certain charitable funds. These laws are aimed at getting around the SALT deduction limit by creating a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes.
The IRS issued final regulations in June 2019 that provide that the receipt of a SALT credit for a charitable contribution is the receipt of a return benefit (quid pro quo benefit). Thus, the taxpayer must reduce any contribution deduction by the amount of any SALT credit received or expected to receive in return. The regulations contain a de minimis exception if the SALT credit does not exceed 15 percent of the taxpayer’s charitable payment.
A taxpayer is not required to reduce the charitable contribution deduction because of the receipt of SALT deductions. However, the taxpayer must reduce the charitable deduction if it receives or expects to receive SALT deductions in excess of the taxpayer’s payment or the fair market value of property transferred.
Payments by Individuals
A safe harbor was provided in Notice 2019-12 for individuals who have a portion of a charitable deduction disallowed due to the receipt of a SALT credit. Under the safe harbor, any disallowed portion of the charitable contribution deduction may be treated as the payment of SALT for the purposes of deducting taxes under IRC Section 164.
The new proposed regulations incorporate the safe harbor in Notice 2019-12. The safe harbor is allowed in the tax year the charitable payment is made, but only to the extent that the SALT credit is applied as provided under state or local law to offset the individual’s SALT liability for the current or preceding tax year. Any unused credit may be carried forward as provided under state and local law.
Payments by Business Entities
The IRS also provided a safe harbor in Rev. Proc. 2019-12 that business entities may continue to deduct charitable contributions in exchange a SALT credit. A business entity may deduct the payments as ordinary and necessary business expenses under IRC Section 162 if made for a business purpose.
The new proposed regulations incorporate the safe harbor in Rev. Proc. 2019-12. If a C corporation or specified pass-through entity makes the charitable payment in exchange for a SALT credit, it may deduct the payment as a business expense to the extent of any SALT credit received or expected to be received. In addition, the new proposal provides that if the charitable payment bears a direct relationship to the taxpayer’s business then it may be deducted as a business expense rather than a charitable contribution regardless of whether the taxpayer receives or expects to receive a SALT credit.
Benefits Received from Third Party
If a taxpayer receives any goods, services, or other benefits from a charitable organization in consideration for a contribution, then the charitable deduction must be reduced by the value of those benefits. If the contribution exceeds the fair market value of the benefits received, then only the excess is a deductible as a charitable contribution.
The new proposed regulations clarify that this quid pro quo principal applies regardless of whether the party providing the goods, services, or other benefits is the charitable organization or not. A taxpayer will be treated under the proposal as receiving goods and services in consideration for the taxpayer’s charitable contribution if, at the time the taxpayer makes the payment or transfer, the taxpayer receives or expects to receive goods or services in return.
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