By Jonathan Harner, CFP®
Once you reach a certain age, you may be required to withdraw money from your retirement savings accounts, even if you don’t need the cash flow. These required minimum distributions (RMDs) impact your financial planning and—more importantly—your tax obligations.
But giving your RMDs to charity can be a great strategy because you may be able to reduce your taxable income. And every dollar we can save you in taxes is another dollar you can use to make the world a better place.
Instead of transferring the money into your bank account, consider sending your RMDs straight to a charity with what is called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).
Benefits of Making a Qualified Charitable Distribution
While cutting out yourself as a middleman saves you a lot of time and administration, that’s not the greatest benefit of a QCD. The greatest benefit is actually financial. You can save money on taxes by sending your RMD directly to a charity instead of taking it for yourself first.
When you make a QCD, it is excluded from your taxable income because the amount that you donate never shows up on your tax return. This leaves you with a lower taxable income and, therefore, a lower tax bill. And you don’t even have to itemize your deductions to get this tax break.
Are You Eligible to Make a Qualified Charitable Distribution?
Not all retirement accounts are eligible to use the funds as a QCD. It has to be an IRA that is a traditional, rollover, inherited, inactive SEP, or inactive SIMPLE plan. A SEP or SIMPLE is considered inactive if no employer contribution has been made during the plan year that ends during the tax year that the charitable contribution is made.
In addition to having the right kind of account, these other requirements must be met:
- You must be age 70½ or older.
- To count toward the RMD for the year, the funds must come out of the IRA account by the RMD deadline, which is usually December 31. Excess donations cannot count toward future-year RMDs.
- QCDs cannot be greater than the amount that would otherwise be taxed as ordinary income (excluding non-deductible contributions).
- Total QCDs cannot exceed $100,000 per calendar year per taxpayer, regardless of the number of charities donated to.
- Funds must be distributed directly to the charity. If you take a distribution and then give it to charity, it does not count as a QCD.
Is Your Charity Eligible to Receive a Qualified Charitable Distribution?
After establishing your own eligibility, you need to make sure that your charity is also eligible to receive a QCD. First, it must be a 501(c)(3) organization that is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
On top of that, there are certain types of organizations that are not eligible to receive QCDs. They are:
- Private foundations
- Supporting organizations (charities that only exist to support other exempt organizations, usually public charities)
- Donor-advised funds managed by public charities on behalf of individuals, families, or organizations
How Are Qualified Charitable Distributions Reported?
Unless it is an inherited IRA, QCDs are reported as normal distributions on Form 1099-R. For inherited IRAs, they are reported as death distributions. Though state rules vary, QCDs are not subject to federal tax withholding.
Because it is already tax-free, you may not claim the QCD as a charitable tax deduction. Even though you aren’t claiming it as a deduction, you need the same acknowledgment of the donation that you would need if you were. Keep this in your records in order to document the fact that the QCD was in fact qualified.
Work With a Professional
We understand that giving to charity is a top priority for you. You’re going to give regardless, so why not do so in the most tax-efficient manner possible? QCDs are a great opportunity for anyone who is required to take minimum distributions from their retirement accounts.
Many specific rules and requirements must be met in order for distributions to qualify for exempt status, so it’s a good idea to work with an experienced financial professional to ensure you make a QCD the right way.
If you’re interested in learning more about qualified charitable distributions and RMDs, our Wichita Wealth Management team is here to help. We strive to simplify financial management and help you experience confidence in your financial future so you can focus on what matters most. Click here to get started!
Jonathan Harner is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner at Wichita Wealth Management, a fee-only, fiduciary financial advisory firm dedicated to helping their clients thoroughly prepare for retirement. Jonathan’s goal is to simplify the complex so his clients can experience confidence and peace of mind as they work toward and live out their retirement dreams. He specializes in developing and implementing tax strategies that maximize his clients’ money and builds a tax-efficient withdrawal plan for retirement. Jonathan loves finding opportunities for his clients to save money and is dedicated to continual learning and growing in his profession so he can provide solutions for his clients’ financial needs. When he’s not working, you can find Jonathan spending time with his wife, Annie, and their daughter, staying active in his church community, and participating in his two favorite (but vastly different) hobbies: CrossFit and Dungeons & Dragons. To learn more about Jonathan and how he can help you, connect with him on LinkedIn.