To keep your tax bill down, if you are over 70½, consider a qualified charitable contribution, which makes donations of up to $100,000 from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to a fully deductible charity.
A qualified charitable distribution (QCD) lets you donate from a traditional or inherited IRA, provided you meet the age requirements.
A QCD can help you eliminate, or at least reduce, taxes owed on your required minimum distribution (RMD). That's the amount you are required to take out of your IRA account annually after turning 70½.
Example: Your yearly RMD is $20,000, which counts as taxable income. But if you donate that amount to a charity, it's not counted as income, which may drop you into a lower tax bracket.
Moreover, you don't have to itemize to take this tax deduction. That's good news for Americans no longer itemizing deductions on their returns. To be sure, some taxpayers are hurt by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, so a qualified charitable distribution can make sense.
You don't have to donate the entire amount to a single charity. You can divvy up a QCD among multiple IRS-eligible charities, within the $100,000 annual limit. You don't have to use 100% of your RMD for the donation, of course, and can keep what you need to pay for your living expenses and donate the rest.
QCDs require careful attention to ensure your donation is made from an individual retirement account — not a 401(k) or 403(b). In addition, you may not make a QCD and also itemize charitable deductions. You must to pick one. Plus, the charity must not be a private foundation or a donor-advised fund. These technical details are crucial.
Another QCD tip: Make the contribution straight from your IRA. The RMD money must never be in your personal, non-IRA account. Send your IRA custodian instructions to send the check directly to the charity, with the organization's name on the check. Have the IRA custodian send you documentation that you made the donation.
Finally, be sure to make the donation before you take your RMD. Should you take the RMD first, you can't give the money back to the retirement account and will be ineligible to deduct it.
The QCD is a fairly complex solution to lower taxes and requires the advice of a qualified tax professional.