Using Qualified Charitable Distributions to Support Charities

Examining a Lesser-Known Way to Reduce Retirees’ Taxable Income

Senior Vice President

Philanthropy is the engine that drives charitable institutions, allowing entities to create and sustain good in a community. One lesser-known but highly advantageous strategy for charitable giving is the Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). This tax-efficient tool allows retirees to combine their philanthropic goals with their retirement planning, offering a unique way to give back to charities.

Understanding Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

A Qualified Charitable Distribution is a provision in the U.S. tax code that permits individuals aged 70½ or older to donate money directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to eligible charitable organizations without incurring federal income tax on the distributed amount. This provision was established as part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 and has been a powerful tool for retirees seeking to support charities while minimizing their tax liability.

How a QCD Works

Eligibility: To make a QCD, you must be at least 70½ years old. The IRS mandates this age requirement to encourage retirees to use their retirement savings for charitable giving.

IRA Account: The donation must come directly from your traditional IRA account. Roth IRAs are not eligible for QCDs.

Annual Limits: The maximum annual QCD limit is $100,000 per individual. If you are married and both spouses have separate IRAs, each can make QCDs up to the annual limit.

Qualified Charities: QCDs can only be made to IRS-qualified charitable organizations. This includes 501(c)(3) public charities, religious institutions, educational institutions, and certain private foundations. Donations to donor-advised funds, supporting organizations, and most private foundations do not qualify.

Tax Exemption: The distributed amount is not included in your taxable income, reducing your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on your tax return. This can have a positive impact on your overall tax liability.

Benefits of Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

Now that we understand what QCDs are, let’s delve into the benefits they offer:

Tax Efficiency: One of the primary advantages of QCDs is their tax efficiency. When you make a QCD, the donated amount is excluded from your taxable income. This means you don’t have to report it as income on your tax return, which can help reduce your overall tax liability. Lowering your AGI can also affect the taxation of Social Security benefits, Medicare premiums, and other deductions that are tied to your income.

Fulfilling Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): For many retirees, taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from their traditional IRAs is a mandatory annual obligation. These withdrawals typically begin at age 72 and are subject to taxation. QCDs count toward satisfying your RMD for the year in which they are made. This means you can use your QCD to meet your RMD obligation while avoiding the associated tax liability.

Maximizing Your Charitable Impact: QCDs allow you to maximize the impact of your charitable giving. By donating directly from your IRA, you ensure that 100% of the donated amount goes to the charity of your choice. In contrast, if you were to withdraw the funds and then make a donation, you would have to pay income tax on the distribution before giving it to the charity.

Simplified Record-Keeping: Using QCDs simplifies your record-keeping. Since the distribution goes directly from your IRA to the charity, there’s no need to track the donation separately. This can make your financial management more straightforward, especially if you’re making multiple charitable contributions throughout the year.

Potential State Tax Benefits: While QCDs primarily provide federal tax benefits, some states may offer additional incentives for charitable giving. Retirees should check with their state’s tax authorities to see if there are any state-specific advantages to making QCDs.

Tips for Making Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

To make the most of QCDs, here are some important considerations:

Verify Charity Eligibility: Ensure that the charity you wish to support qualifies for QCDs. Most reputable charitable organizations fall under this category, but it’s always a good idea to double-check.

Work with a Tax Professional: Tax laws and regulations can change, so it’s wise to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to ensure you’re making QCDs correctly and maximizing their benefits.

Plan Your Giving: Strategically plan your charitable giving and RMDs to make the most of QCDs. This might involve coordinating with other sources of income to minimize your overall tax liability.

Document the Donation: Even though QCDs simplify record-keeping, it’s still essential to keep a copy of the acknowledgment letter from the charity as proof of your donation.

Potential Drawbacks and Limitations

While QCDs offer numerous advantages, they may not be the best option for every retiree. Here are some potential drawbacks and limitations to consider:

Age Requirement: You must be at least 70½ to make QCDs. If you want to support charities before reaching this age, other giving strategies may be more suitable.

Annual Limit: The maximum annual QCD limit is $100,000 per individual. If your charitable intentions exceed this amount, you may need to explore other giving methods.

No Tax Deduction: Since QCDs are excluded from your taxable income, you won’t receive a charitable deduction on your tax return for the donation. If you itemize deductions, this might be a consideration.

Roth IRA Limitation: Roth IRAs are not eligible for QCDs. If your retirement savings are primarily in Roth accounts, you’ll need to consider alternative ways to support charities tax-efficiently.


Qualified Charitable Distributions are a valuable tool for retirees looking to align their philanthropic goals with their retirement planning while minimizing their tax liability. By enabling individuals aged 70½ and older to donate directly from their traditional IRAs to eligible charities, QCDs offer a win-win solution that benefits both retirees and the charitable organizations they support.

Before making QCDs, it’s essential to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to ensure you meet all the requirements and take full advantage of this tax-efficient giving strategy.

Emily Crain

Senior Vice President

(405) 840-8401