Qualified Charitable Distributions

Support Worthy Causes, Reduce Your Taxable Income

Charitable giving can do more than give you a sense of fulfillment for making a difference in people’s lives. It can also play a valuable role in your financial and estate plans.

There are several ways to support charitable organizations, such as charitable remainder trusts, donor-advised funds, appreciated stock, and gifts of cash. The key is to determine which type of gift makes the most sense for you.

If you’re a taxpayer aged 70 ½ and older with an individual retirement account (IRA), you can use qualified charitable distributions to support causes that are near and dear to your heart while reducing your tax obligation.

What Are Qualified Charitable Distributions and How Do They Work?

Created by the Pension Act of 2006, a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD, allows the owner of traditional IRAs and inherited (beneficiary) IRAs, age 70 ½ or older, to distribute directly to qualified public charities up to $100,000 per year without the distribution being included in taxable income ($100,000 will be indexed to inflation beginning in 2024).

Generally, IRA distributions are considered taxable income for the IRA owner. However, qualifying amounts donated via a qualified charitable distribution are excluded from your taxable income.

By strategically lowering your taxable income, you can:

  • Reduce your marginal tax bracket.
  • Reduce or eliminate income that is subject to the Net Investment Income Tax.
  • Reduce Medicare premiums that are subject to the income related monthly adjustment penalty.
  • Reduce the tax rate you pay on ordinary dividends and capital gains.

The Mechanics of Qualified Charitable Distributions

Here is a general overview of the rules and process that must be followed to make a donation through a qualified charitable distribution.

You must be age 70 ½ or older. If you turn 70 ½ in May, you cannot make the contribution prior to your birthday.

The distribution must move directly from your IRA to a qualified charity. There is no limit to the number of charities you may choose to support through a qualified charitable distribution, and you’re not obligated to contribute every year.

The check will be made payable to the charity. You can have the check sent directly to the charity or have it sent to you and present the check in person.

Most financial firms have a specific form to initiate such a transaction, which must be completed within the calendar year. Make sure you tell your CPA how much you contributed via the qualified charitable distribution. Your 1099R, the tax reporting form used for distributions, will include the total amount.

A Real-World Example Illustrating the Tax Benefits

Many investors have accumulated significant wealth in IRAs. When they reach the age that requires them to take annual required minimum distributions, or RMDs, they might not need the full distribution to pay the bills and support their lifestyle.

The problem is that the distribution may place them in a higher marginal income tax bracket, subject them to the Net Investment Income Tax, and increase their Medicare Part B and Part D premiums. The increase in your Medicare premiums is called a Medicare income-related monthly adjustment and will increase your premiums two years after the current tax year.

For example, a 73-year-old investor with $3,683,000 in their IRA will need to take a required minimum distribution in the amount of approximately $139,000. This amount will be added directly to their other income sources, such as interest, dividends, capital gains, Social Security, pensions, and more.

This investor can elect to have up to $100,000 sent directly from their IRA to one or more qualified charities. The amount contributed will directly reduce the investor’s income from the IRA distribution, dollar for dollar.

For example, an investor who sends $25,000 to various qualified charities via qualified charitable distribution will report income from their IRA in the amount of $114,000 ($139,000 – $25,000). In a 24 percent marginal federal tax bracket, the tax savings are approximately $6,000.

How Much Should You Contribute?

The amount you contribute should be primarily based on the amount that truly satisfies your annual philanthropic desires. In other words, how much you are willing and able to support the great work done by charitable organizations?

Annual strategic planning can identify opportunities to reduce income taxes and realize benefits in other areas of your financial planning. Always consult with your tax professional when considering methods to reduce taxation because mistakes can be costly.

Financial and tax professionals can “model” your current-year tax return using various amounts of qualified charitable distributions to identify the contribution level that satisfies your desire give and delivers the greatest tax benefit.

Let’s look at the 73-year-old investor with $3,680,000 in their IRA. The required minimum distribution for 2023 is $139,000. For this investor, including all sources of other income, their federal income tax will amount to $42,013, including a $259 Net Investment Income Tax.

The adjusted gross income for this taxpayer, including all sources of income, totals $261,278. This income will have both spouses paying significantly more money for Medicare Parts B and D in 2025. The additional amount over the standard Medicare premium is $196.30/month for each spouse. For 2025, they will pay an additional $4711.20.

Making a qualified charitable distribution in the amount of $25,000 reduces their federal income tax bill from $42,013 to $35,753, a tax savings of $6,260. The additional amount they will pay for Medicare will decrease from $4711.20 in 2025 to $1874.40, a savings of $2,836.80.

In summary, a $25,000 qualified charitable distribution saves this taxpayer $6,260 in federal tax and $2,836.80 in Medicare premiums for a total of $9,096.80.

The tax and Medicare savings can make your charitable giving that much more rewarding. Not only does a qualified charitable distribution provide a means for supporting worthy causes, but it also enables you to reduce your taxable income and keep more money in your pocket. It’s a win-win!

This article was provided by Paul Levin, CFP, ChFC, RICP; a retirement income certified professional, partner of Retirement Refined, LLC (securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor), and a volunteer member of Samaritan’s Planned Giving Committee, a group of the area’s leading professional financial advisors, lending their time and expertise to raise awareness of the potential advantages of charitable estate planning.  This article is educational and not intended to provide financial or tax planning advice. Please be sure to consult with your financial and tax professionals prior to initiating a qualified charitable distribution or any charitable transaction.

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