What is a Qualified Charitable Distribution? Is it Right for me?

Now that we have filed our first tax return since the tax reform bill in 2017, many of you may be wondering if there are any strategies available to continue to make charitable contributions and enjoy some form of tax savings. If you are over 70 1/2 years old AND you have funds in an IRA, then there was one positive addition in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Before 2018, Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) were considered on a year by year basis by Congress, and we never knew until the end of the year if this provision would be renewed, and therefore a permissible strategy. Now that QCDs are permanently extended, we believe they are a great strategy IF you qualify.

What is a QCD?

It is a direct gift transfer from your IRA to a public charity. The gifted amount sent to a charity does not count as income even while you satisfy your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for your IRA (Roth IRAs are exempt from RMDs).

Are There Rules to Make a QCD?

Like many charitable giving strategies, there are rules and restrictions for QCDs:

  • You must be at least 70 ½ or older on the date of distribution
  • The maximum amount is $100,000 per year, per person
  • Payment must go directly from the custodian to the charity (checks can be mailed to the IRA owner to forward to the charity)
  • There is no federal or state tax withholding(s) on the charitable amount
  • Distributions are only allowed from an individual or rollover IRA
  • Active SEP or SIMPLE IRAs are not eligible accounts
  • The donation must go to a public charity

How does it Work?

  • Notify your advisor or custodian of your IRA that you wish to use some or all of your RMD (up to $100,000 per person) as a gift to a charity. Give them the name of the charity, dollar amounts that you wish to gift, and address where you want the check mailed.
  • There is no limit on the number of charities that you can consider, as long as the total does not exceed your RMD or $100,000 per year.
  • A check will then be made out in the name of the charity and can be mailed directly or sent to you to submit to the charity.
  • Ask for a letter confirming your contribution. You need to keep track of any amounts you donate as a QCD.
  • Let your accountant know for the next tax year what amount you gave to charities using the QCD provision.

What Qualifies as a Public Charity?

The IRS defines a “public charity” as an organization that has an active program of fundraising and receives contributions from many sources, including the general public, governmental agencies, corporations, private foundations, or other public charities. Many churches, hospitals, medical research organizations affiliated with hospitals, schools, colleges, and universities meet the criteria of being a public charity.

As with any tax strategy, please consult with your tax advisor about eligibility requirements and to determine if making a QCD is appropriate for you.

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