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What Is a Charitable Gift Annuity? A Primer for Donors

what is a charitable gift annuity

By Joanne Fritz. Nonprofit Charitable Orgs Expert

Joanne Fritz has worked in the nonprofit world for most of her 30-year career beginning with teaching at the secondary, college, and university levels. She has also held senior management positions at two national nonprofits and two universities. Fritz has served on numerous nonprofit boards and was chosen to participate in leadership programs in two cities. Read more

Question: What Is a Charitable Gift Annuity? A Primer for Donors

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It goes into an annuity that pays out a guaranteed interest rate of around 5-9% per year to the beneficiary (you and/or your spouse usually). At your death the nonprofit gets to keep whatever is left of the original sum.

The American Council on Gift Annuities sets the rates that guide annuity payments. These are set so that the nonprofit ends up with about half of the donor's initial contribution.

Charitable annuities commonly pay out at a certain age, usually 60 and above. A portion of the annuity payments are tax-free and you can take an upfront income tax deduction on the gift.

You can also pay taxable gains on appreciated stocks or property over your life expectancy rather than paying capital gains tax

immediately the way you would if you sold that property for other purposes.

Things to watch out for:

Gift annuities involve an irrevocable transfer of assets. You can't get your gift back once you fund an annuity. You are also stuck with the rate of interest when you fund the annuity. It won't go up when interest rates or inflation rise. On the other hand, the interest rate won't go down either, and you get to support a favorite institution or cause.

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Donors can receive payments immediately (although many nonprofits don't allow payments until you are over 60) or defer payments until a later date. The older you are, the higher the rate.

Gift annuities are usually funded with a gift of at least $10,000. Charitable gift annuities usually do not pay a well as commercial annuities.

Annuities are backed by the charity's assets, so you should thoroughly vet the institution's financial strength before funding an annuity. Ask organizations about their total asset levels and for records of any defaulted annuities. Gift annuity defaults, due to insolvency, are rare, however.

You should consult your financial adviser, accountant, or attorney to make sure a gift annuity works best for you.

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