With year-end tax planning looming in the next few months, we are bringing you two ideas for donating to charity that could save you additional money at tax time.
Donate Appreciated Stocks or Mutual Funds
The first idea is to donate appreciated stocks or mutual funds from your taxable accounts. Donations of highly appreciated securities actually receive double tax savings. First you get to deduct the full market value of the donation, up to 30% of your adjusted gross income, which can help to reduce your taxable income. Second, the donation of securities also allows you to avoid paying the state and federal capital gains taxes that you would have owed if you had sold the stock.
Qualified Charitable Distribution
The second idea is something called a “Qualified Charitable Distribution.” A few years ago, Congress passed a law that allows those who are over 70 ½ years old to give up to $100,000 to charity directly from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). You may use these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) to satisfy all or part of your annual required minimum distribution (RMD). Those who give to charity using this method get special tax treatment of their gift.
Typically, taking money out of your IRA is a taxable event – the withdrawal adds to your taxable income and inflates your adjusted gross income (AGI). However, QCDs do not count as taxable income and therefore have no effect on your AGI. This is significant because your AGI determines a number of things, including Medicare premium costs, the net investment income Medicare surtax, the taxability of Social Security income, itemized deduction phase-outs, and exemption phase-outs, to name a few.
So making a qualified charitable distribution allows you to satisfy all or part of your RMD without increasing your taxable income or your adjusted gross income.
What are the rules?
- You must be over 70 ½ on the date of distribution.
- QCDs are limited to $100,000 per person per year.
- Only distributions from a Traditional IRA, Rollover IRA or Inherited IRA (where the beneficiary is over 70 ½) are eligible. You may not make QCDs from SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, nor from any type of employer retirement plan; those types of accounts must be rolled over into a Rollover IRA before they may qualify.
- Your QCD must go to an organization designated by the IRS as a “qualified charity.” This list includes all 501(c)(3) public charity organizations, but explicitly excludes donor-advised funds, private foundations and other grant-making organizations, as well as “split-interest” charitable trusts (such as charitable lead trusts or charitable remainder trusts).
- The QCD must be made directly to the charity. This is non-negotiable. The distribution will not qualify if the check is made out to you, or if the money is first transferred into a non-IRA account of yours before it goes to the qualifying charity. The IRS does not provide a way to correct mistakes. Most trustees and custodians already have forms and procedures in place to help you make these transfers; make sure you are specific with them about your intent, and that they know how to handle your request. (Checks should be made out directly in the charity’s name and mailed to the charity’s address.)
- Ensure that no tax is withheld from your QCD to the charity (no withholding is necessary since this is a non-taxable distribution).
- Make sure to alert the charity that you are making a QCD to them, as some custodians may not put any information on the check or wire transfer that would personally identify you.
- Make sure you get a confirmation letter from the charity acknowledging your gift and stating that you received no goods or services in exchange for it.
- To report a QCD on your Form 1040 tax return, you generally include the full amount of the charitable distribution on the line for total IRA distributions (15a). On the line for the taxable amount (15b), enter zero if the full amount was a QCD (or calculate the taxable amount if your QCD was less than your total required minimum distribution) and write “QCD” in the blank space next to the line.
With either of these charitable donation and tax-saving strategies, it’s always a best practice to let the organization that you’re making the gift. This way they will know who to send the record of receipt to, so that you will have documentation to hold on to for your tax returns.
As we’ve mentioned before, we are not accountants and therefore suggest that you consult with your accountant to see if either of these ideas would make sense for your particular situation.