For the last four years, IRA owners who are over age 70.5 have been able to make charitable gifts from their IRA of up to $100,000 per year. This law has been extended before and Congress is currently working on another extension for 2010. Congress’ willingness to continue extending this law is attributable to the popularity of this technique.

Even if Congress extends the law, there may be a better way to make a gift to charity. Here’s how it works: Step 1: Determine how much you want to give to charity from your IRA. Step 2: Make the gift to charity from your non-IRA assets. For example, you could give highly appreciated securities or real estate. Step 3: Convert the same amount of your IRA to a Roth IRA.

The income from the Roth conversion will be offset by the charitable income tax deduction so that the net effect on your income taxes is neutral. Income tax neutrality is consistent with a direct gift to charity from your IRA. However, the synthetic gift has the additional effect of converting appreciated securities from your taxable portfolio into a Roth IRA where you will never pay taxes on the appreciation or the earnings of the securities.

There are 3 other benefits of the synthetic gift technique. You are not limited to a charitable gift of $100,000 per year. You can make a gift to your private foundation or donor advised fund. This is not possible with a direct gift from the IRA.  Finally, if you have not yet attained age 70.5, you are not eligible to make a direct gift from your IRA.  The synthetic gift technique has no age limit.

There is a potential pitfall with this technique. There are complicated income tax rules that affect the timing and amount of your charitable income tax deductions. Make sure your CPA examines the consequences before you make a synthetic charitable IRA gift™.
 

A synthetic charitable IRA gift™ may be a better choice for you than a charitable IRA rollover because it provides money to charity and allows you to convert a portion of your taxable portfolio to a Roth IRA.