As we approach the twilight of another year, it is most appropriate to consider increasing charitable donations to your favorite non-profit, church, or synagogue.

You can use your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) to make a charitable contribution.  Contact the custodian who holds your IRA/401K monies (generally this will be a bank, or brokerage) and ask them to do the paperwork on this.  You'll need to get the Employer's Identification Number (EIN) from the charity and give that to your banker or broker.  If this transaction is done by transferring from the institution to the church/non-profit, then you will not have to declare this money as income for 2013.  Remember, you must not take the money out yourself and "touch" it - then, it would be income to you!  (By the way, this tax benefit is slated to expire on 12/31/2013, so don't count on it continuing for 2014!)

You can "gift" shares of stock to the charity and take a deduction for it.  If you have shares of stock that have gained in value, but you don't want to incur capital gains taxes, by gifting them to the charity, you can take a charitable deduction on the appreciated value of the stock!  Is this a a great country or what, eh?  Talk to your stock broker or broker-dealer about this.

If you'd like to receive an income stream from your charitable gift, you might consider a "charitable remainder trust".  This will require some consultation with your attorney, so you'd better get going on this one!

You could set up your favorite charity as a beneficiary to your IRA.  Now, you won't get a current year deduction for this, but your estate will benefit from this.

In all of the above, I suggest you consult with your tax advisor for your particular situation. 

Of course, if you get a Christmas bonus, you can always give cash, too!