The stores in town are filling up with Christmas decorations and moving loads of Halloween candy at the same time. I’m not that keen on ghouls and goblins, so I don’t mind seeing the trees and lights show up in the stores, but it seems early to see all the Christmas stuff out already. News reports indicate that major ground transportation and shipping delays may result in many items not making it to stores in time for Christmas shopping…so where did all these trees and lights come from? Maybe they are leftover from last year.

All these holiday preparations are a good reminder that the season of giving is approaching. It has been researched and documented that one-third of all annual charitable giving takes place in the final three months of the year. In fact, the same industry studies indicate one-quarter of all charitable giving takes place between Thanksgiving and December 31st. If you plan for retirement, you may be familiar with the opportunity to make contributions to your tax-deferred retirement account as late as your tax filing deadline, usually April 15th of the following year. You can prepare your taxes, and prior to filing, make a final contribution to your retirement to potentially reduce your tax bill. The same generous delay is not available for your charitable giving. December 31st is a hard stop for your charitable giving, so be aware of the deadline.

Cash contributions can usually be made up to the final weekday of the year, however, you should make a note of the change for 2021. New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday in 2022, so the official observance, which usually means banks and financial markets are closed, will be on Friday, December 31, 2021. This is all the more reason to plan ahead for your giving this year. Make a note now that Thursday, December 30th is the hard deadline for charitable giving in 2021.

If you want to make a gift of something other than cash to your favorite charities, now is the time to act. If you have been mulling over the idea of donating a piece of property or closely held securities, it is time to get your team of advisors to start checking with your favorite charity about the lead time they will need to consider your gift. Most charities have gift acceptance policies that require professional assistance or board action if the gift is not cash or publicly traded stock. I have often commented to nonprofits and advisors that those policies are in place so a donor cannot dump the deed to an unmarketable timeshare on an unsuspecting charity at the close of business on the last day of the year. Gifts of real estate may also require environmental surveys and document research, so you should get started on those tasks now if you want to finalize a gift before year-end. Gifting appreciated property such as real estate or closely-held stock has many advantages. Chief among those advantages is to avoid the capital gains tax on gifts of capital gain assets. Check with your advisors to see if making a gift of appreciated assets is a wise move for you this year.

At football games, when the horn sounds to end the third quarter, you can see the players on the sidelines, and sometimes the fans, hold up four fingers and call out, “fourth quarter!” At a football game that is a call to bear down and finish the game strong. If you need a comeback, the fourth quarter is your last opportunity to make it happen. If you are ahead at the end of the third quarter, it is a reminder to not let up and finish the job. The month of October is the first month of the fourth quarter, so consider this your fourth quarter notice. If you want to make a gift of an asset that requires some effort to process, get it taken care of now so you can enjoy the holidays without scrambling around trying to collect signatures on documents when everyone else is on vacation. Using your time wisely in preparation for year-end giving may be your next best opportunity to give well.