Qualified Charitable Distributions: Giving Money While Saving It

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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Late last year, the Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from IRAs for those over the age of 70 ½ was permanently extended through the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. Previously, the QCD was constantly being renewed at the 11th hour in late December, making it extremely difficult for clients and financial planners to properly plan throughout the year. If you’re over the age of 70 ½ and give to charity each year, the QCD could potentially make sense for you. 

QCD Refresher

The Qualified Charitable Distribution only applies if you’re at least 70 ½ years old. It essentially allows you to donate your entire Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) directly to a charity and avoid taxation on the dollars coming from your IRA. Normally, any distribution from an IRA is considered ordinary income from a tax perspective, however, by utilizing the QCD the distribution from the IRA is not considered taxable if the dollars go directly to a charity or 501(c)(3) organization.    

Let’s look at an example:

Sandy, let’s say, recently turned 70 ½ in July 2016 – this is the first year she has to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from her IRA which happens to be $25,000. Sandy is very charitably inclined and on average, gifts nearly $30,000/year to her church. Being that she does not really need the proceeds from her RMD, but has to take it out of her IRA this year, she can have the $25,000 directly transferred to her church either by check or electronic deposit. She would then avoid paying tax on the distribution. Since Sandy is in the 28% tax bracket, this will save her approximately $7,000 in federal taxes!

Rules to Consider

As with any strategy such as the QCD, there are rules and nuances that are important to keep in mind to ensure proper execution:

  • Only distributions from IRAs are permitted for the QCD. Simple and SEP IRAs must be “inactive.”
    • Employer plans such as a 401k, 403b, 457 do not allow for the QCD.
    • The QCD is permitted within a Roth IRA but this would not make sense from a tax perspective being that Roth IRA withdrawals are tax-free by age 70 ½. *
  • Must be 70 ½ at the time the QCD is processed.
  • The funds from the QCD must go directly to the charity – the funds cannot go to you as the client first and then out to the charity.
  • The most you can give to charity through the QCD in a given year is $100,000, even if this figure exceeds the actual amount of your RMD.

The QCD can be a powerful way to achieve one’s philanthropic goals while also being tax-efficient. The amount of money saved from being intentional with how you gift funds to charity can potentially keep more money in your pocket, which ultimately means there’s more to give to the organizations you are passionate about. Later this month, we will be hosting an educational webinar on philanthropic giving – click here to learn more and register, we hope to “see” you there!

Roth IRA owners must be 59½ or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.