Likely your IRA, 401(k), or other retirement fund is one of your largest assets – and if the fund is larger than you think you and your family will need for retirement security, you may have considered using some portion of it for a charitable gift to the Lewis County Historical Society. From a tax standpoint that could be a wise move.
The way to structure your gift depends on your age and the type of plan you have.
If you are between 59½ and 70½
You can withdraw money from your retirement fund, whether that is an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or other comparable plan, and then contribute it to a charity like the Lewis County Historical Society. The money you withdraw will be added to your taxable income, but you will receive a charitable deduction for the same amount. If the amount you are able to deduct on your federal and state tax returns equals the withdrawal, then you essentially can make the gift at little or no tax cost. (Note: don’t do this if you are under 59½ because the amount withdrawn would be subject to a 10% penalty tax as well as being added to your taxable income.)c
If you are over 70½ and have an IRA
You may authorize the administrator of your IRA to transfer funds (“rollover” funds) directly to one or more charities like the Lewis County Historical Society. The amount you transfer will count towards your mandatory distribution and will not be added to your taxable income.
The total amount of the transfers in any one year cannot exceed $100,000. Also, a transfer cannot be for a donor advised fund, supporting organization, or a private foundation (the Lewis County Historical Society is none of those). It can be for any designated purpose at the Historical Society; it can be for an endowment, and it can be used to fulfill any outstanding pledge.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president in 2015 made this special “rollover” provision permanent.
If you are over the age of 70½ and have a retirement fund other than an IRA
The direct transfer (“rollover” provision) described above can be done only with an IRA. However, if you have another plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), you could transfer money from that plan to an IRA and then do a direct transfer to charity from your IRA. Some people, upon retirement, convert their employer retirement plan to a self-directed IRA anyhow.
So long as your money remains in a plan other than an IRA, you can follow the procedure described above for those younger than 70½: withdraw funds from the plan and then contribute them to the charity, in which case the deduction usually offsets all or most of the tax on the distribution.
If you own some appreciated stock, you might contribute that stock to charity and then withdraw from your retirement plan cash equal in value to the stock. Suppose, for instance, that you contribute stock worth $50,000 with a cost basis of $20,000. Then you withdraw $50,000 from your retirement plan and use that $50,000 to repurchase the stock, stepping up the basis to $50,000 and reducing the taxable gain if you sell the stock in the future. Assuming you are able to use the deduction, it would totally or substantially offset the tax on the amount withdrawn, and the withdrawn amount would count towards your mandatory distribution requirement.
Tips on how your beneficiaries can avoid income tax!
When individuals are named as beneficiaries of retirement funds (other than from a Roth IRA), the distributions are taxed as ordinary income. On the other hand, when those beneficiaries receive bequests of appreciated property—such as securities and real estate—they are not taxed on the gain that accrued before your death. Thus, when a person wants to make end-of-life gifts to both loved ones and a charity like the Lewis County Historical Society, it is more tax-efficient to name the Historical Society as a beneficiary of all or a portion of remaining funds in the retirement account. The Historical Society as a charity, and being tax-exempt, will pay no income tax on any of the distributions, and your loved one will pay no income tax on the appreciated securities or real estate.
How do I change my beneficiary designation?
The procedure is very simple. It is unnecessary to amend your will or living trust agreement. Just request a change-of-beneficiary form from your plan administrator and indicate the percentages for family members and charity. You can make a gift by beneficiary designation from an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or any other comparable plan.