How To Use Your IRA For Charitable Donations – Longmont Times-Call
The main purpose of an IRA for most investors is to provide cash flow once they are no longer working. Funds withdrawn from your traditional IRA are generally subject to federal and state ordinary income tax. Taxation is similar to when you earn money from a job, except that no Social Security or Medicare tax is due on IRA withdrawals.
If you have an interest in donating to charity, current tax laws offer few tax advantages for donations because more than 90% of taxpayers use the standard deduction, according to the IRS. Many taxpayers still haven’t adjusted to the new normal, in which charitable giving offers few tax benefits.
Lawmakers may have withheld the tax benefits of donations, but they have given us tools to use IRAs to fund charitable donations during your lifetime and as an inheritance. If you have a philanthropic mind, consider these strategies.
Qualifying charitable distributions. Once you reach the age of 70 and a half, you gain special power when it comes to your IRA. You can designate some of your IRA withdrawals to go directly to charity. This ends up being even better than a deduction because unlike most IRA distributions, funds going directly to charity are not included in your taxable income.
Another advantage is that once you are 72, the IRS requires that you take a minimum distribution from your IRA each year based on your age and your account balance. While many will exceed the minimum withdrawal because they need these funds to spend, others are forced to withdraw and pay taxes on IRA distributions that they do not need. Qualified charitable distributions may meet all or part of this requirement.
Charitable bequests. Not only are IRAs useful for charitable giving during your lifetime, but they also have strong benefits for philanthropy when you are no longer around. While many end up handling charitable bequests in your will or trust, doing so through IRA beneficiaries ends up being a superior option for many.
When you leave IRAs directly to your children or other family members, they turn into inherited IRAs. As they withdraw from their inherited IRAs, they will have to pay taxes on those funds. By bequeathing funds to a charity, no one pays income tax, including the charity. Plus, if you change your philanthropic goals during your lifetime, you can update them simply by submitting a form to the custodian rather than spending the time and money updating a will or trust.
Remaining charitable trust. The Secure Act largely removed extended IRAs, which allowed heirs to extend IRA withdrawals over their lifetime. It was a blow to the plans of many savers who hoped to use IRAs to pass their wealth on to the next generation. Now, most beneficiaries have 10 years to withdraw funds from their inherited IRAs. The Charitable Remainder Trust has become a method both for charity and for slowing IRA withdrawals.
The CRT makes it possible to bypass the 10-year rule and to space out withdrawals over the life of the heir or over a fixed period of up to 20 years. This is called a charitable residual trust because once a percentage of the account is paid to your heirs each year during the term of the trust, what is left goes to charity. When creating the trust, the donor can identify specific charities or use a more flexible charity fund.
Some donors worry about leaving a large IRA directly to the beneficiaries, as they can withdraw the entire balance immediately despite the dire tax consequences. With a CRT, you can control the pace of withdrawals by setting up a trustee who will follow your wishes. Some supporters of the CRT also cite creditor protection and divorce as benefits for the heir. Since the assets of the CRT are held separately from the other assets of the beneficiary, these assets are segregated.
David Gardner is a Certified Professional Financial Planner with Mercer Advisors and practices in Boulder County. The opinions expressed by the author are his own and are not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice. They reflect the judgment of the author on the date of publication and are subject to change.