How to Value Donations of Private Stock
Philanthropic business owners may have made last-minute gifts of stock to charities at the end of 2020. Others plan to make donations in 2021. How much is that stock worth? Donations of publicly traded stocks are relatively easy to value, but private equity interests are typically more complicated to value.
Qualified charitable donations can help lower your taxable income as well as support worthwhile causes. However, not all donations are tax deductible — individuals can deduct them only if they itemize.
In addition, charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations. You can determine whether an organization is qualified by going to the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check.
Depending on the amount of the donation, to claim the tax break you'll have to:
- File Form 8283 Section B for a donation valued at more than $5,000,
- Obtain an independent appraisal within 60 days of the date of the gift (before or after) if the stock is valued at more than $10,000, and
- Attach the appraisal to your tax return if the shares are deemed to be worth more than $500,000.
Fair market value (FMV) is the appropriate standard of valuation for these donations. Under IRS Revenue Ruling 59-60, FMV represents "The amount at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and willing seller, when the former is not under any compulsion to buy, and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts."
If you put a restriction on the use of the property you donate, the FMV must reflect that restriction.
Business Valuation Report
Appraisals for donations valued at more than $10,000 must be written. Abbreviated calculations or letter formats may cost less, but they may also raise a red flag with the IRS. Moreover, valuators' reports typically serve as their direct testimony if a return ends up in U.S. Tax Court.
According to IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, qualified appraisals must include:
- Detailed descriptions of the donation, including dates of the contribution and valuation as well as terms of any agreements relating to the use, sale or other disposition of the property,
- Statements that the appraisals were prepared for income tax purposes,
- FMV on the date of contribution,
- The methods used to value the business interest, such as the cost, market, or income approach, and
- Any specific data the appraiser used to determine FMV, such as comparable sales transactions.
Business valuation reports should identify the appraisers' firms and list their qualifications, including background, experience, education, and memberships in professional appraisal associations. Always use an appraiser who has earned an appraisal designation from a recognized professional organization and who meets IRS requirements for education and experience. The IRS specifically prohibits do-it-yourself valuations by the donor, donee, or related parties.
Important: You may not take a charitable deduction for business valuation or appraisal fees. In previous years, those fees may have qualified as miscellaneous deductions, subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit. However, starting in 2018, that tax break has been temporarily suspended through 2025 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Forewarned Is Fair Warned
The IRS has cracked down on charitable contributions in recent years. The bigger your deductions, the more stringent the substantiation rules are — and the more likely the IRS is to audit them. Hire an experienced business valuation professional to help ensure your deduction survives IRS scrutiny.