While nearly all wealthy individuals make charitable contributions during their lifetimes, most fail to do so at the time of death, a report from the Urban Institute finds.
Based on estate and income tax returns, the report, Patterns of Giving by the Wealthy, analyzed charitable giving by wealthy individuals at the time of their death in 2007 compared with the last five years of life (2002-06). The study found that when charitable contributions were made by the estates of wealthy individuals after death, the contributions on average were much larger than what the individuals gave over the last five years of their life.
This was true, even though such giving would almost always have reduced their total tax burden. Indeed, those who gave at death contributed so much at that point that, in aggregate, it significantly exceeded their total late-in-life giving.
According to the report, the share of wealthy individuals who did not report any giving (including those who did not itemize and are presumed to have given less than the standard deduction) in 2002-2006 ranged between five percent among those with a net estate value of at least $100 million to about 30 percent among those with a net estate value of between $2 million and $5 million.
The study also found that the share of estate tax returns with zero charitable bequests in 2007 ranged between 61 percent and 97 percent among married decedents and between 28 percent and 89 percent among single decedents.