Monday, December 30, 2019

What's a Qualified Charitable Distribution?

Dear Wilderness Volunteer,

As mentioned in the WV November newsletter, Wilderness Volunteers is a 501(c)3 charitable organization and donations may be tax deductible. Unfortunately, since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, many taxpayers no longer benefit from itemizing their deductions. An equally helpful alternative to making a charitable contribution may be a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD).

How QCDs work:
You must be 70 ½ or older in order to be eligible to make a QCD. You simply instruct your IRA trustee/custodian to make a distribution directly from your IRA (other than a SEP or SIMPLE IRA) to Wilderness Volunteers. The distribution must be one that would otherwise be taxable to you. You can exclude up to $100,000 of QCDs from your gross income each year. And, if you file a joint return, your spouse (if 70 ½ or older), can exclude an additional $100,000 of QCDs. Note: You do not get to deduct QCDs as a charitable contribution on your federal tax return – that would be double-dripping.

QCDs count towards satisfying your required minimum distributions (RMDs) that you would otherwise have to receive from your IRA – just as if you had received an actual distribution from the IRA. However, distributions that you receive from your IRA (including RMDs) and subsequently transfer to a charity cannot qualify as QCDs.

Important note: A QCD must be an otherwise taxable distribution from your IRA. If you have made nondeductible contributions, then normally each distribution carries with it a pro-rata amount of taxable and nontaxable dollars. However, a special rule applies to QCDs – the pro-rata rule is ignored, and your taxable dollars are treated as distributed first.

Why are QCDs important?
Without this special rule, taking a distribution from your IRA and donating the proceeds directly to Wilderness Volunteers would be a bit more cumbersome and possibly more expensive. You would request a distribution from the IRA and then make the contribution to Wilderness Volunteers yourself. You would include the distribution in your gross income and take a corresponding income-tax deduction for the charitable contribution. But, due to IRS limits, the additional tax from the distribution may be more than the charitable deduction. Furthermore, due to much higher standard deduction amounts ushered in by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017, itemizing deductions may be become even less beneficial.

QCDs avoid all of this by providing an exclusion from income for the amount paid directly from your IRA custodian to Wilderness Volunteers – you do not report the IRA distribution in your gross income, and you do not take a deduction for the QCD.

You can make the QCD payable directly to Wilderness Volunteers, by asking your IRA custodian to make the check payable to the Wilderness Volunteers Endowment Fund and have the check mailed directly to:

Wilderness Volunteers
PO Box 22292
Flagstaff, AZ 86002

It is always a good idea to consult with your tax advisor if you have any questions regarding charitable contributions or QCDs.

Thank you,
Lee D. Cooper, CFP®, ChFC®
Treasurer, Wilderness Volunteers

2019 WV photo contest winners!

We'd like to announce the winners for the 2019 Wilderness Volunteers photo contest. We received a lot of great submissions this year and we want to take a second to thank everyone who participated this year.

Without further adieu...

Grand Prize 

Kui Kanthatham (@kui360 on Instagram). "Milky Way over Sawtooth Lake & Mount Regan"

Top prizes in each category:

On the trail / hard at work- Randy Meier. "Ansel Adams Wilderness"

Wildlife- Kathleen Worley. "Moraine Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness"

Wildflowers + trees- Greg "Coach" Allen. "King Range National Conservation Area"

Landscapes- Randy Kahn. "The Watchman and Virgin River"

Camp life- Amy Schwake. "Salmon River"

Congratulations to all of our winners! A huge thank you to our prize donors Keen Footwear, REI, Patagonia, & Liz Lemon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Keep It Clean: On The Importance of Cleaning Your Gear

One of the most important (and likely most forgotten) parts of being a responsible outdoor adventurer is cleaning your gear before and after each adventure.

While exploring our nation's wild lands helps us gain appreciation for them it can also put them in added danger. Invasive weeds, insects, and diseases can be introduced to new areas via shoes, clothing, camping gear, boats, vehicles, firewood, etc.

You know it was fun if you get dirty!

Here are just a few examples of some invasive and destructive threats to our public lands that can be transported to new places by unwary travelers:

  • White Nose Syndrome (bats): a fungal disease, likely from Europe, that is killing millions of bats in North America. White Nose Syndrome can be transported from cave to cave by humans on shoes, clothing, or gear. 
  • Chytrid Fungus (amphibians): a fungal disease that has led to massive population declines and/or extinctions of various amphibian species. It can be transmitted in water or on wet or muddly footwear or gear. 
  • Rapid Ohia Death (Ohia Trees): a fungal disease that causes the quick death of native hawaiian Ohia trees. It can be transmitted through movement of infected firewood, or on clothing, shoes, gear, or equipment.
  • Ranavirus (amphibians, reptiles, and fish): a viral infection that has caused mass mortality events of amphibians and reptiles. It can be spread in water or on wet or muddy footwear or gear.
  • Didymo (waterways): a freshwater diatom native to cold regions of North America, northern Europe and Asia. Didymo can form thick mats and smother habitats for stream dwelling insects and fish. It can be spread on felt-sole wading boots, boats and gear.
  • Zebra Mussel (waterways): a small freshwater mussel native to Russia and Ukraine that has invaded numerous waterways across the eastern United States. They reproduce and colonize in large numbers, outcompeting native mussels, changing the water quality, and overwhelming waterways. They can be transmitted in water, on boats, and on waders/gear.
  • Non-native weeds (public lands): Introduced plants can radically alter native ecosystems by outcompeting and smothering native plants, removing native foods and habitats for wildlife, increasing soil erosion, and degrading aquatic waterways. Weeds can be unintentionally introduced to new areas on hiking boots, clothing, gear, etc. 

What you can do:

  • Clean your gear throroughly. Check and clean your gear before you leave for your next adventure and before you leave to come home. Remove seeds, burrs, mud, soil, and debris.
  • Disinfect your footwear. Use a small bottle with isopropyl alcohol or a 10-25% bleach solution and a cleaning brush. The disinfectant should take at least a minute to dry.
  • Wear gaiters. Wearing hiking gaiters can help keep seeds, burrs and plants out of your shoes and shoe laces and make cleaning your shoes easier.
  • Stay on trails. Staying on designated trails (and out of closed/fragile areas) helps prevent the spread of seeds/diseases away from untrammeled areas. 
  • Clean your bike tires. Remove mud, soil, rocks and debris from your tires before and after each ride. (Be sure to leave materials on site where they came from.)
  • Buy and use firewood locally. Fungi, insects, small critters, and other invasives can be transported in firewood. Buy or obtain firewood as close as possible to the place you need it and leave any left over firewood in the same area instead of taking it home.
  • Use weed-free hay. If you are taking horses/llamas/etc on the trail with you buy certified weed-free hay, feed, or straw to prevent invasive weed seeds or root fragments from colonizing new areas.
  • Make sure wet equipment dries completely before using it again. A variety of hitchhiking fungus, viruses, and pests can continue to live as long as their environment is wet. Be sure your equipment has enough time to dry completely between your adventures. 
  • Clean your boat. Clean plants, mud or debris off your boat/canoe/kayak before departing and drain it thoroughly. Dry your boat/canoe/kayak with towels and/or make sure it has enough time to dry between adventures (at least 5 days is recommended).