Turning Assets into Tax Savings

Dr. John W. Conrad (EDUC PhD ’70)
Joseph Conrad with his platters shortly after they were installed at the Hillman Library on the University of Pittsburgh campus. 

Each day, hundreds of Pitt students pass by the colorful ceramic art created by Dr. John W. Conrad (EDUC PhD ’70). John recently donated eight of his platters to the University and they were installed in the lower level of the Hillman Library. The art, along with pieces from other artists placed throughout the building, helps to create a welcoming environment for the students. And with a value of nearly $16,000, the donation of the platters offered John and his wife Barbara a substantial tax deduction.

Gifts of cash are still the most common form of donation made to the University and make the most immediate impact; however, the practice of donating other assets such as art, stocks, and real estate is growing.

“The University is currently working with several alumni and friends to accept gifts other than cash,” said Danni Piccolo, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Schools and Centers, Individual Giving. “It’s a great way to get the most out of unused assets while potentially earning the largest tax deduction for your gift.”

By far, the most common type of non-cash gift is appreciated securities. By transferring stocks directly to the University, the donor can potentially avoid paying capital gains taxes while also receiving a deduction on their income tax return.

Danni is especially excited about increasing the number of gifts of real estate to Pitt over the coming years.

“A gift of property allows the donor to make a significant gift, transfer the burden and expense of managing a property they no longer use, and at the same time, remove a large asset from their taxable estate,” she said.

Pitt has begun to streamline its procedures for accepting gifts of real estate.

“When someone is interested in the possibility of gifting property to the University, we ask them to first complete a form that collects all of the vital information we need to assess the property,” Deborah Pozycki, Director, University of Pittsburgh Department of Leasing and Real Estate said. “This kind of gift can really be a win-win for the donor and the University.”

Vacation properties are often excellent assets for making a gift. The same holds true for “permanent” homes that are only used for part of the year and are no longer needed once the owners decide their years of traveling back and forth chasing good weather are over.

"A gift other than cash is a great way to get the most out of unused assets while potentially earning the largest tax deduction.”
- Danni Piccolo

Real estate and other appreciated assets may be used to create Charitable Gift Annuities, which could provide the donor or a loved one an income stream for life.

“Though not always a quick process, donating appreciated assets can be financially and personally rewarding,” Deborah said.

Much like the platters donated by John Conrad, among the most impactful real estate donations to the University is one that was actually never sold. In 2006, Dr. Robert J. and Mary B. Weiss donated a building in downtown Bradford, Pennsylvania valued at more than $1 million. The restored structure now houses the Marilyn Horne Museum & Exhibition Center. The museum’s mission is to “further interest in the art of opera and to inspire and educate new generations on the importance of art, culture, and philanthropy through the life and achievements of renowned mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horne.”

Along with the museum, the building houses the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford Division of Continuing Education and Regional Development, faculty offices, and the Pitt-Bradford Center for Rural Health. Just as importantly, the Center provides much-needed community meeting and retail space.

“Not everyone owns a historically significant property like the Weiss’s, but anyone who owns unused or underused real estate, fine art, stocks, or other appreciated assets can explore donating them to Pitt, while potentially lowering their tax burden,” Danni said. “It all starts by reaching out to one of our planned giving experts.”

For gifts to the University's Schools of the Health Sciences, please contact Cynthia Caldwell at ccyndi@pmhsf.org or 412-647-0515. For all other gifts, contact Shannon Christof at snc46@pitt.edu or 412-383-0480.

This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with a professional advisor.

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