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In a press release and IRS Notice (Notice 2018-54) issued Wednesday, May 23rd, the IRS warned taxpayers to be wary of state efforts to circumvent new federal limits on deductions for state and local taxes.  Under the recent tax overhaul, deductions for state and local taxes (including property taxes) are capped at $10,000.  This cap is particularly detrimental for residents of states with high property taxes and/or state and local income taxes (for example, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut). 

To mitigate the adverse impact of the new $10,000 cap on state and local taxes, states have been considering alternative methods to raise revenue that would avoid the cap.  New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have both signed legislation permitting local governments to set up charitable organizations that can accept property tax payments as donations (which could be deductible, without limitation, against federal taxable income). 

Notice 2018-54 announces that the Department of Treasury and the IRS intend to propose regulations regarding the SALT deduction cap, and signals their view that tax payments in excess of the cap (regardless of how structured) are not deductible.  In particular, the Notice highlights the approach taken by New York and New Jersey (structuring tax payments to allow taxpayers to characterize the payments as deductible charitable contributions), and warns that federal law, not state law, controls the proper characterization of payments for federal income tax purposes.

For more information on federal tax reform’s impact on individuals see our earlier Legal Advisory, issued April 17, 2018, titled “Practical Insights on Tax Reform: Impact on Individuals”.

It is not often that you can find inspiration within the Treasury regulations. But if you are a family foundation looking for innovative ways of pursuing your charitable mission, you will come away from reading the nineteen examples in the regulations finalized by the Treasury Department last year with a new enthusiasm for program-related investments, known simply as PRIs. The stories these examples tell of the myriad ways PRIs can achieve positive impact will be compelling to many foundations, especially those that have been reluctant to incorporate PRIs into their grantmaking and investment strategies.

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