For most people, using IRA dollars for charity is a two-step process. You take money from your IRA, reporting taxable income. Then, you donate it to the charity or charities of your choice, perhaps claiming a tax deduction for the contribution.
The new Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes law establishes the permanence of qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), which go directly from IRAs to recipient organizations. They are available only to IRA owners age 70½ or older. Such individuals can use QCDs every year now, up to $100,000 per year.
Once IRA owners reach age 70½, they usually must take certain amounts of required minimum distributions (RMDs) each year or pay a 50 percent penalty on any shortfall. QCDs count toward RMDs.
Example: Joyce Harris, age 72, has a 2016 RMD of $20,000. If Joyce, who gives $5,000 to charities each year, makes those donations directly from her IRA, that $5,000 counts toward her RMD for the year, so she will only have to withdraw another $15,000 from her IRA in 2016. She will then report only $15,000 of taxable income, not $20,000, but she will not get a tax deduction for the $5,000 going from her IRA to charities.
Why would Joyce do this? There are several situations in which using a QCD could pay off. Perhaps most important, Joyce will be able to satisfy her $20,000 RMD obligation, yet only report $15,000 of income, thus, reducing what otherwise would be her adjusted gross income (AGI) by $5,000. For some taxpayers, QCDs can eliminate any addition to AGI from their required IRA distributions. A lower AGI, in turn, can offer many benefits throughout your tax return. Our office can go review your specific situation to see if using an IRA for donations after age 70½ would be tax-effective for you.