Batts Morrison Wales & Lee - News & Resources - Nonprofit Special Alert

Congress Poised to Pass – President Expected to Sign Permanent Extension of Exclusion for Direct Charitable IRA Distributions

Only Days Left to Take Advantage for 2015

Sample Notice for You to Send to Your Donors Provided Below

By: Michael E. Batts, CPA

As part of a larger tax and appropriations package, Congress is poised to pass and President Obama is expected to sign legislation that will permanently extend the exclusion for direct charitable IRA distributions by taxpayers 70½ years old and older.  That exclusion had expired as of December 31, 2014.  The renewal will be retroactive for all of 2015.

Nonprofit organizations that are eligible recipients of direct charitable IRA distributions should consider notifying their donors of this limited-time opportunity for 2015 immediately upon President Obama’s approval of the legislation.

We have provided sample text below for such a notification.

Refresher – Overview of the exclusion for direct charitable IRA distributions
The direct charitable IRA distribution exclusion allows qualified distributions from an IRA to be excluded from the taxable income of a donor. Such treatment is very favorable to certain donors since distributions from a regular IRA are ordinarily taxable and the donor’s ability to deduct a charitable contribution may be limited based on his or her specific circumstances.  Additionally, such treatment permits the donor to have a lower adjusted gross income, which may be beneficial for other reasons.

Nonprofit organizations wishing to attract such gifts need to be aware of the following special conditions and restrictions that apply under the law:

  • The donor must be 70½ or older on the date of the transfer;
  • The transfer must be made directly by the IRA’s custodian or trustee to the donee organization;
  • The donor may not receive any goods or services in exchange for the gift (or any part of the gift);
  • The donee organization must generally be a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organization and may not be a supporting organization, a donor-advised fund, or a nonoperating private foundation;
  • The exclusion is limited to $100,000 per year per donor (spouses have two separate $100,000 limits for a total of $200,000); and
  • The donor must obtain a proper charitable contribution acknowledgment prior to filing his or her tax return for the year of the distribution.


Let’s take a closer look at some of these requirements.

Direct transfer required. The donor must have the IRA custodian or trustee make the transfer directly from the IRA account to the donee organization. The donor may not take a distribution personally and then contribute it to the charity without triggering taxation of the distribution. This is a very important requirement for which nonprofit organizations should watch when encouraging such gifts from donors.

Only certain types of 501(c)(3) organizations are qualified recipients. Another subtle provision in the law that is easily overlooked is the stipulation that the donee organization may not be a supporting organization, a donor-advised fund, or a private nonoperating foundation. While most nonprofit executives would know whether their organization maintains donor-advised funds or is a private foundation, many leaders may not know if their organization is a supporting organization. A supporting organization (described in Section 509(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code) is a type of 501(c)(3) organization that, by its nature, exists to support one or more other nonprofit organizations. A classic example of a supporting organization is a fundraising foundation that supports a specific “parent” nonprofit organization, such as a church, a school, a college, or a museum. Supporting organizations are not qualified recipients of direct charitable IRA distributions.

Donor must receive proper acknowledgment of contribution. In order for a direct charitable IRA transfer to be excludible from a donor’s taxable income, the transfer must meet the requirements that would otherwise apply for a deductible charitable contribution. (Note, however, that with a qualified direct charitable IRA transfer, the donor does not actually get a charitable deduction; he or she is permitted to exclude the distribution from taxable income instead.) The ordinary rules for charitable contributions require a donor to obtain a proper acknowledgment from the donee organization for individual gifts of $250 or more. The donor must have the acknowledgment before filing his or her tax return for the year of the gifts. Accordingly, a donor must have a proper acknowledgment for a direct charitable IRA distribution before filing his or her tax return for the year of the distribution. The acknowledgment should indicate the name and address of the donee organization, the name of the donor, the specific dates and amounts of the gifts, and a statement that no goods or services were provided in exchange for the gifts. (Note that receipt by the donor of any goods or services that would reduce the deductible amount of an ordinary charitable contribution will disqualify a direct charitable IRA distribution.) While not specifically stated in the law, and subject to possible future federal regulations that may state otherwise, our firm recommends that the donee organization acknowledge and specifically identify any gifts that are direct IRA distributions separately from regular charitable contributions.

Sample Text for Notification to Your Donors 

[Note – As a precaution, we recommend that you wait until President Obama has signed the legislation to send this notification to your donors. BMWL will issue a separate Special Alert when President Obama signs the legislation.]

Congress Passes Permanent Extension of Exclusion for Direct Charitable IRA Distributions…Only Days Left for Donors to Take Advantage for 2015

Dear ___:

Congress has passed and President Obama has signed legislation that permanently extends the exclusion for direct charitable IRA distributions by taxpayers 70½ years old and older.  That exclusion had expired as of December 31, 2014.  The renewal is retroactive for all of 2015.

Some taxpayers who meet the criteria for making direct distributions from their IRAs to churches and qualified charities may realize a substantial tax benefit by taking advantage of this opportunity before the end of the year.  For taxpayers who qualify, up to $100,000 per taxpayer may be excluded from income under this provision of the law.  If you believe that such a gift from your IRA may be appropriate for you, we encourage you to promptly consult with your tax advisor and IRA custodian. Also, please let us know if we can help you facilitate such a gift in any way by contacting _______ at _____________________.

Thank you for your faithful support of _______.



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