Greetings! I hope that this finds you well and enjoying life. I’m excited about the business of retirement.

For some IRA holders there can be an effective way to give in a way that benefits the charity, benefits you and leaves the IRS out in the cold.

Recently I have been getting questions about making charitable contributions directly from an IRA. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 first allowed taxpayers age 70½ and older to make tax-free charitable donations directly from their IRAs. By making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from an IRA directly to a qualified charitable organization, older IRA owners were allowed to exclude up to $100,000 annually from gross income. These gifts, also known as “charitable IRA rollovers,” would otherwise be taxable IRA distributions. The law was originally scheduled to expire in 2007, but was extended periodically through 2014 by subsequent legislation and finally made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.

You must be 70½ or older in order to be eligible to make QCDs. You simply instruct your IRA trustee to make a distribution directly from your IRA (other than SEP and SIMPLE IRAs) to a qualified charity. The distribution must be one that would otherwise be taxable to you. You can exclude up to $100,000 of QCDs from your gross income each year. And if you file a joint return, your spouse (if 70½ or older) can exclude an additional $100,000 of QCDs. Note that you don’t get to deduct QCDs as a charitable contribution on your federal income tax return, that would be double-dipping.

QCDs count toward satisfying any required minimum distributions (RMDs) that you would otherwise have to receive from your IRA, just as if you had received an actual distribution from the plan. However, distributions that you actually receive from your IRA (including RMDs) and subsequently transfer to a charity cannot qualify as QCDs.

As indicated earlier, a QCD must be an otherwise taxable distribution from your IRA. If you’ve made nondeductible contributions, then normally each distribution carries with it a pro-rata amount of taxable and nontaxable dollars. However, a special rule applies to QCDs, the pro-rata rule is ignored and your taxable dollars are treated as distributed first.

If you have multiple IRAs, they are aggregated when calculating the taxable and nontaxable portion of a distribution from any one IRA. RMDs are calculated separately for each traditional IRA you own but may be taken from any of your IRAs. Your QCD cannot be made to a private foundation, donor-advised fund, or supporting organization (as described in IRC Section 509(a)(3)). Further, the gift cannot be made in exchange for a charitable gift annuity or to a charitable remainder trust.

Why are QCDs important? Without this special rule, taking a distribution from your IRA and donating the proceeds to a charity would be a bit more cumbersome and possibly more expensive. You would request a distribution from the IRA and then make the contribution to the charity yourself. You’d include the distribution in gross income and then take a corresponding income tax deduction for the charitable contribution. But due to IRS limits, the additional tax from the distribution may be more than the charitable deduction. And due to much higher standard deduction amounts ushered in by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017, itemizing deductions may have become even less beneficial in 2018 and beyond, rendering QCDs even more potentially appealing.

QCDs avoid all this by providing an exclusion from income for the amount paid directly from your IRA to the charity, you don’t report the IRA distribution in your gross income, and you don’t take a deduction for the QCD.

If you have questions about your personal retirement plan or questions about any of the above call us.

Best regards,


Jeff Christian CFP, CRPC


 We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them

Albert Einstein

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