We occasionally receive calls from clients regarding questions about the best way to perform internal accounting for charitable gift annuities. As a split-interest charitable gift arrangement, the CGA represents both a gift to the charity and a financial obligation to the annuitant(s). On this much, there is general consensus, but on the manner in which the charity should compute the estimated remaining liability for each CGA over time, there are two main approaches. Given that the total funding minus the charitable deduction equals the total estimated liability at the outset of the gift arrangement, some organizations choose to record the incremental changes in liability as a sort of mortgage payment plan, or straight-line depreciation schedule. This method essentially amortizes the total estimated liability at the beginning and breaks that total down into regular and consistent annual amounts (sometimes even quarterly amounts). There is a fundamental problem with this approach; A gift annuity is NOT a mortgage.
[NOTE: The following is based on a true story.] Some of the numbers just didn’t make sense. It was that most wonderful time of the year for a non-profit organization – the closing of the June 30 fiscal year! Almost like Christmas in July, everyone was busy reviewing tally sheets and running various reports in an effort to provide comprehensive information about the gifts received over the previous 12 months. With outright gifts, of course, the process was fairly straightforward – whatever was received, for the most part, was counted with a few exceptions. With life income gifts, however, the process was a little more complicated, since the organization needs to report the total funding amount, the estimated liability, and the estimate of the charitable remainder.
If your organization is registered to issue gift annuities in New York, be sure that completion of the Annual Statement form (due March 1) is on your “to do” list. Unlike many states, where the filing is based on fiscal year end, the NY deadline is the same for all organizations. If you haven’t already done so, the 2014 form is available for download on the New York state website. One notable change this year: the reserve listing, which includes information on all annuities, must be filed in PDF form by all organizations (and also in Excel form for NY-based charities), but no longer needs to be filed in hard copy.
In the realm of gift planning, there are a number of terms that we use often. For those new to gift planning or those looking for a refresher, this is the first in a series of articles entitled: “5 Terms Every Gift Planner Should Know.”