What Are Qualified Charitable Distributions

A qualified charitable distribution (QCD) allows individuals who are 70½ years old or older to donate up to $100,000 total to one or more charities directly from a taxable IRA instead of taking their required minimum distributions. As a result, donors may avoid being pushed into higher income tax brackets and prevent phaseouts of other tax deductions, though there are some other limitations.

How do qualified charitable distributions work?

The recipient of the QCD generally must be a 501(c)(3) or another recognized charity recognized by the IRS. The contribution must be in the form of U.S. cash or property, which means cash (or the equivalent in check or coin) or a current bank account, with a physical location of the charity. Non-cash contributions may include stock or other securities, or units in a qualified business enterprise (QBE). For 2016, the maximum cash deduction is $100,000, or 50% of the donation amount if the contribution is $100,000 or more. For tax years 2017 and 2018, the maximum is $100,000, or 50% of the donation amount if the contribution is $100,000 or more. For 2019, the maximum is $100,000, or 50% of the donation amount if the contribution is $100,000 or more.

Benefits of qualified charitable distributions

QCDs may be more valuable than ever because the income limits for the most current and future deductible contributions to traditional IRAs have increased. The IRS made these changes for all taxpayers except those with adjusted gross income (AGI) below certain limits. Donors will avoid having their basic exemption for the following tax year reduced from $0 to $10,000 for the first two qualified charitable distributions and $20,000 for additional distributions. The donor can contribute up to $13,000 to the same qualified charitable organization and avoid having the donor’s base income count towards their state and local income tax burden. The donor can avoid the greater than $1,050 state income tax for every $1,000 donated, and the $1,050 federal income tax.

Who can make a qualified charitable distribution?

QCDs may be made by a donor who is 70½ years old or older as well as anyone that is blind, disabled, or age 65 or older, although a retiree may be exempt from the requirement to take the distributions by taking the distribution on a spouse’s record. A qualified charitable distribution must be made from all of an individual’s lifetime RMDs, with the exception of RMDs taken before age 70½. In addition, a qualified charitable distribution is not considered a distribution from the estate, so there is no probate process or other tax consequences for making a qualified charitable distribution. Qualified charitable distributions must be made on an individual’s tax return, even if the individual is deceased, and are treated as ordinary income.

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Type of charity that can receive a QCD

The following are the types of charities that can receive a QCD. Generally speaking, a QCD will be made directly from a qualified charitable distribution to a charity of your choice. However, certain situations may lead to a partial or complete charitable distribution to a specific charity, rather than to any or all of the charities of your choice. Make charitable gifts within 60 days of the end of the calendar year. You do not need to wait until your retirement to make charitable gifts. If you want to make your QCDs after your retirement, you need to follow this three-step process. If you make a QCD, you can receive a tax deduction for the value of the transfer from the assets that are included in the QCD.

When might a qualified distribution not be effective?

When donations are paid out of pre-tax accounts, they count against the donor’s taxable income. That means that if the taxable income is too high, the donations may be more than the individual is required to pay in taxes. And there are some more unusual rules. For instance, you may not be able to make a QCD if your total IRA balance is less than $611,000, or if you are 55 years old or older, you may be required to pay capital gains taxes on a QCD.

Tax reporting

QCDs are reported on Schedule A of your 1040 and are subject to standard income tax withholding. QCDs are a bonus to charities and a bonus to taxpayers, but they can make or break the charities. Ask the charities to plan for this tax benefit by organizing tax-deductible contributions into their accounts, even though you cannot itemize donations. You will need to stay on top of your donations, though, as you might miss out on larger donations that can boost their fund-raising efforts.

What are the limitations of using QCDs?

They may be used to donate to any 501(c)(3) charity (or a local community organization), but they must go through a qualified charitable distribution representative to make sure all applicable tax rules and regulations are followed. Contributions must be made directly to a qualified charitable distribution representative, and QCDs cannot be used for church, nonprofit religious organizations, political parties, or other organizations that are not recognized charities. A charitable contributor is required to include a copy of the tax identification number for the charity in the QCD form.

How can I find out if I am eligible for a QCD?

The IRS allows individuals to apply for a QCD in one of four ways: filling out Form 8604, a form required to start or continue a QCD; writing a check to an authorized charity; scheduling a qualified donor meeting with an IRS representative, or initiating a transfer with a qualified charitable organization. These sources provide a helpful way to research your eligibility for a QCD.

What should I consider before making a QCD?

If you are 70½ years old or older and make a QCD, you must use the money to help individuals or families who are low income or otherwise in need. Generally, the first $100,000 you donate each year is tax-free, but there are some special restrictions that could apply to you. Here’s what to consider before making a QCD: If you donate QCD funds to a charity that doesn’t exist yet, the IRS can audit you, which might not be worth the potential tax benefits. In addition, charities that aren’t incorporated as charities may not be eligible for the QCD. If your QCD fund goes to a new charity every year, the value will eventually be below the $100,000 amount, and you will have to start the process all over again.


Tax reform is a significant benefit for taxpayers in many ways. Through new limits on itemized deductions and the elimination of most of the itemized deductions available to higher-income taxpayers, tax reform benefits taxpayers in several ways. The first step to taking advantage of these changes is to ensure you understand and have documented your tax situation.

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