Cash or Grain - Which is Better?

Published on: 12:55PM May 08, 2019

Many farmers have a local charity that they like to support. This could be their church, school, local FFA chapter or many other options.

Farmers are unique in that they can give either cash or grain (or other farm commodities) to their charity. Most charities do not care whether they get cash or grain since it is very easy to convert the grain to cash.

We are aware of some charities that will not receive grain even after you explain the process to them.

Giving cash to a charity does not receive much of a tax break for most farmers under tax reform. With a standard deduction exceeding $24,000, most farmers would have to give more than $20,000 to receive any extra tax benefit (assuming a state with no income tax).

However, if a self-employed farmer gives grain to a charity this can result in substantial tax benefits to the farmer. First, they effectively get a full deduction for the grain donated since it will not be reported as income on Schedule F. Second, they reduce their self-employment income and third, they still get the full standard deduction. This can add up to substantial tax savings.

As an example, assume Mary normally gives $20,000 each year to her church. She is in the 20% tax bracket and subject to full self-employment taxes. Since she and her husband are in the 22% tax bracket, this saves her about $3,500 of income taxes (it is not exactly 22% due to losing the 1/2 of SE tax deduction and the 20% 199A deduction) plus she saves about $3,000 of SE tax. This results in total tax savings of about $6,500.

As you can see, in this case, it is much better to give grain than cash.