Early Christmas gifts and year-end planning ideas

Buz Livingston

Walton County taxpayers got an early Christmas present but Santa did not slide down the chimney. Rather, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s decision effectively debunking the Walton County TDC bed tax myth was our bundle of joy. With local budgets under siege, her decision gives taxpayers a much-needed respite. Subject to board of commissioner approval, we can use bed tax revenue to purchase and care for parking lots along with bicycle path maintenance and expansion. 

Santa still makes his list of who has been naughty or nice so don’t spread ill will. Advertising South Walton is not going to be eliminated. Instead of merely promoting our brand, we can enhance it. Imagine the novelty of a well-maintained beach to bay bicycle path, importantly, taxpayers won’t get stuck with the tab. Likewise visitors, not only locals, will help eliminate the dangerous bridges over Western Lake.

Charitable Donations

Non-profits generate significant revenue from year-end contributions. Recently in The New York Times my friend, Ron Leiber, echoes Dr. Peter Singer arguing donations to faraway places give more bang for the charitable buck.  Please allow a community writer posing as a humble scribe to take small issue with the venerable New York Times.  Before my counterpoint let me put Dr. Singer’s book “The Life You Can Save” on my Christmas list. The Princeton bioethics professor writes we should be doing much more for people who lack basic needs. Art museums have their place but how well does donating to them compare with saving children dying from diarrhea or malaria?  

Walton County residents have a local non-profit, the South Walton Community Council (SWCC) with a profound impact far beyond the county line. This past year Anita Page, SWCC’s executive director, along with other concerned citizens forcefully argued against a parcel of Point Washington State Forest being sold for a new Tourist Development Center.  Walton County almost established a precedent where municipalities throughout Florida could lop off state forest land as they deemed appropriate. 

The SWCC has also been instrumental in determining appropriate uses for NRDA and Restore Act fines and penalties from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  One project has actually gone forward with minimal county support.  With elimination of the Department of Community Affairs, SWCC is practically alone in Panhandle Florida as a community standards watchdog.  As retiring treasurer, I can state unequivocally our barebones budget goes a long way to protecting the Walton County’s natural beauty and quality of life.  Consider a donation at www.southwaltoncc.orgor mail a check to PO BOX 1661, Santa Rosa Beach FL 32459.

Donor Advised Funds

Donor advised funds allow you to transfer and deduct the value of highly appreciated assets, either stocks or real property to your own personal semi-foundation. Fidelity and Vanguard are the two big-shots but every brokerage offers them.  Deductions may be limited in 2013 so a DAF maybe more appropriate this year. With tax rates rising in 2013, consider a 2012 Roth IRA conversion of a traditional IRA coupled with establishing a donor advised fund. Consult your advisor to determine if you are a good candidate.  DAFs allow anonymous donations thus minimizing the December solicitation deluge.

Buz Livingston, CFP offers hourly financial planning and fee-only investment management to clients along Florida’s Emerald Coast. He can be reached at 267-1068, Buz@LivingstonFinancial.netor www.LivingstonFinancial.net.