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Donate to charity from your IRA? You can’t lose

by on
in Small Business Tax,Small Business Tax Deduction Strategies

Although numerous tax breaks may be going by the boards at year-end, older taxpayers don’t have to wait to see what happens to one tax provision that already expired.

Strategy: Make a charitable donation from your IRA. In other words, have your IRA custodian transfer the funds directly to the charity without ever touching the money.

It’s a virtual no-lose proposition for certain individuals.

Here’s why: Under prior law, a taxpayer age 70½ or older could transfer up to $100,000 directly from an IRA to a qualified charitable organization without paying any tax on the distribution, although the gift could not be deducted as a charitable donation. A married couple could give up to $200,000. Expect this provision, which expired after 2011, to be revived retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012. But even if it’s not, you’re still OK.

•    If the provision is reinstated retroactively, you’re sheltered from tax.

•    If the provision isn’t reinstated retroactively, you must pay tax on the distribution. But then you’re entitled to a corresponding tax deduction for your charitable gift. So it’s a wash for tax purposes as long as you are allowed to claim a current deduction for the full amount of your charitable donation. (Check with your tax pro if you have any doubts about that.)

In either event, the distribution counts as a “required minimum distribution” (RMD) for individuals age 70½ or older. Therefore, you can meet this obligation while helping out a charity.

Tip: The only possible “losers” are nonitemizers and individuals whose 2012 charitable deductions might be limited by the tax rules.

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