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IRS Unveils New Tax Break For IRA Owners

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

18 December 2006


The US Internal Revenue Service last week announced that individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law changes made last summer by the Pension Protection Act.

The new law offers older owners of individual retirement accounts a new way to give to charity. It also includes rules designed to provide both taxpayers and the government greater certainty in determining what may be deducted as a charitable contribution.

Giving details of a new tax break for older IRA holders, the IRS revealed that individuals aged over 70 ½ can directly transfer tax-free, up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charitable organization. This option is available in tax years 2006 and 2007. Eligible IRA owners can take advantage of this provision, regardless of whether they itemize their deductions. Distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, including SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans are not eligible.

To qualify, the funds must be contributed directly by the IRA trustee to the eligible charity. Amounts so transferred are not taxable and no deduction is available for the amount given to the charity.

However, not all charities are eligible under this provision. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

Transferred amounts are counted in determining whether the owner has met the IRA’s required minimum distribution rules. Where individuals have made nondeductible contributions to their traditional IRAs, a special rule treats transferred amounts as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions.

Unveiling new general guidlines for monetary donations, the IRS revealed that in order to deduct any charitable donation of money, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. A bank record includes canceled checks, bank or credit union statements and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity and the date and amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity and the transaction posting date.

Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card, and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

Prior law allowed taxpayers to back up their donations of money with personal bank registers, diaries or notes made around the time of the donation. Those types of records are no longer sufficient.

This provision applies to contributions made in taxable years beginning after Aug. 17, 2006. For taxpayers that file returns on a calendar-year basis, including most individuals, the new provision applies to contributions made beginning in 2007.

The new law does not change the prior-law requirement that a taxpayer get an acknowledgement from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet the requirements of both provisions.


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