The Pension Protection Act of 2006 first allowed taxpayers age 70½ or older to exclude from gross income otherwise taxable distributions (“qualified charitable distributions,” or QCDs) from their IRA that were paid directly to a qualified charity.

Taxpayers were able to exclude up to $100,000 in both 2006 and 2007. The law was extended through 2009 by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and has just been extended again, through 2011, by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the Tax Relief Act).

How Qualified Charitable Distributions work for 2011

You must be 70½ or older in order to make QCDs. You direct your IRA trustee to make a distribution directly from your IRA (other than SEP and SIMPLE IRAs) to a qualified charity. The distribution must be one that would otherwise be taxable to you. You can exclude up to $100,000 of QCDs from your gross income in 2011. If you file a joint return, your spouse can exclude an additional $100,000 of QCDs in 2011. Note: You don’t get to deduct QCDs as a charitable contribution on your federal income tax return–that would be double dipping.

QCDs count toward satisfying any required minimum distributions (RMDs) that you would otherwise have to receive from your IRA in 2011, just as if you had received an actual distribution from the plan. However, distributions that you actually receive from your IRA (including RMDs) that you subsequently transfer to a charity cannot qualify as QCDs.

Example: Assume that your RMD for 2011, which you’re required to take no later than December 31, 2011, is $25,000. You receive a $5,000 cash distribution in February 2011, which you then contribute to Charity A. In June 2011, you also make a $15,000 QCD to Charity A. You must include the $5,000 cash distribution in your 2011 gross income (but you may be entitled to a charitable deduction if you itemize your deductions). You exclude the $15,000 of QCDs from your 2011 gross income. Your $5,000 cash distribution plus your $15,000 QCD satisfy $20,000 of your $25,000 RMD. You’ll need to withdraw another $5,000 no later than December 31, 2011, to avoid a penalty.

Please consult your tax professional to fully understand tax consequences of any qualified charitable distribution.

The following information is reprinted with permission from Forefield, Inc. Copyright 2006-2010.