Meet America’s Mega Philanthropists: Super Rich and Super Generous

It’s not uncommon for billionaires to give up some of their money to charity, but some give a lot more than others to causes close to their hearts. The Giving Pledge, championed by Warren Buffett and Bill & Melinda Gates, invites the world’s wealthiest to pledge more than half of their wealth to charitable causes either during their lives or in their wills.  As of this year, 186 ultra high-net worth individuals have joined the effort, with many promising to allocate more than 99% of their wealth to philanthropy. 
Last year, the 5 most generous individuals and couples gave away a combined $14.7 billion. Here are some of the more notable pledgers and what causes they support.
Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, funds invaluable scientific research through the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Allen established the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which studies the genetic causes of brain diseases and disorders. As of 2015, Allen has donated $2 billion to charity.
Warren Buffett pledged to give away more than 99% of his riches and has already donated over $21.5 billion. Buffett noted in his pledge letter that “about 20% of my shares (in Berkshire Hathaway stock) have been distributed” to various charities and he will continue to distribute another 4% of his stock every year.
Bill and Melinda Gates are champions in eradicating preventable diseases. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda gave away more money than anyone else last year, donating $4.8 billion, according to Forbes. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds initiatives and programs around the world that support agricultural development, emergency relief, urban poverty, global health, and education. They are particularly devoted to fighting diseases that, with treatments like vaccinations, are easily preventable.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are fighting Ebola and improving San Francisco Bay-area public schools. Mark Zuckerberg was one of the first individuals to join the Giving Pledge and donated $2 billion last year. 
No matter the amount, your generosity in gifting time and money to worthwhile causes can have a significant impact on your tax liability. While tax considerations should never drive your charitable giving, it makes sense to structure your gifting to maximize the tax benefits. If you have questions regarding your gifting or estate plan, please contact Talley LLP today.
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