San Diego Business Journal

Tax Uncertainties Cloud Financial Picture, Charity Outlook

TAXES: Advisers Offer Insight on Various Options By Marion Webb Monday, November 19, 2012

The looming of the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, scheduled to go into effect in January 2013, also brings lots of uncertainty for the local financial and tax advisers of San Diego’s wealthiest residents.

The advisers’ advice, meanwhile, could also be critical for the financial health of local nonprofit organizations, which benefit from the rich making large donations to promote public good.

Their concern is that with President Obama’s proposed limit of the charitable contribution deduction to 28 percent from the current 35 percent for single taxpayers earning more than $200,000 and married couples filing a joint return with income above $250,000, the rich will be less inclined to give.

But that too remains to be determined by Congress.

Three local advisers to San Diego’s top earners who have an annual income of $400,000 or higher, offer some insight on how income-tax rates, capital gains and estate taxes, among other provisions, could affect charitable contributions this year and for years to come.

Will Beamer, partner and chief investment officer at the financial advisory firm, Dowling & Yahnke LLC in Carmel Valley, whose clients own at least $1 million in financial assets, said while his clients likely will need to pay more in federal and state taxes in 2013 and beyond, it won’t be the determining factor for gift-giving.

Concern Is Financial Security

“As the law stands, the Bush tax cuts will expire on Jan. 1, 2013 — if Congress does nothing, the top income bracket would be raised from 35 percent to 39.6 percent — but the last thing I will advise my clients on is what Congress may or may not be talking about,” Beamer said. He added, “While we enjoy helping people with their charitable giving, our primary concern is their own personal financial security.”

Sid Tobiason and Bruce Knowlton, tax partners at accounting firm Moss Adams LLP in San Diego, who advise owners of closely held businesses and wealthy individuals, said when it comes to charitable contributions, a lot of factors come into play.

“Our clients’ decision on whether to make a charitable contribution from one year to another is more based on their economic situation, or how the economy has impacted them, more so than what the tax rate is,” Tobiason said.

Knowlton noted that with the passage of Proposition 30 in California — which raises the state sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years and income tax rates for individuals who earn more than $250,000 a year for seven years — high income earners will see a 3 percent hike in state taxes from 10.3 percent to 13.3 percent.

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