If you're at an age where you need to be taking Required Minimum Distributions (age 70.5) from your IRA, a qualified charitable contribution and some planning may allow you to lower your overall tax liability.
Their required minimum distribution from their IRA is $40,000 which will be taxed at ordinary income. If this couple is in the 24% tax bracket, the tax liability would be $9,600.
Alternatively, if they made the $20,000 in charitable contributions from their IRA as a Qualified Charitable Contribution, it would not be taxable in the withdrawal. The balance of the RMD of $20,000 would be taxable at 24% which would have a tax liability of $4,800.
Their $32,400 worth of itemized deductions would be reduced by the $20,000 because it was paid from the IRA which makes their itemized deductions $12,400. The $25,300 standard deduction would benefit them more by an amount of $12,900 increased deductions. At 24%, this would reduce their liability by $3,096.
In the first instance, they would owe $9,600 in taxes due to the $40,000 RMD from their IRA. In the second example, because of the increased amount by taking the standard deduction, the net tax liability would be $1,704 ($9,600 - $4,800 - $3,096 = $1,704).
This example shows how shifting contributions to a Qualified Charitable Contribution will get the same amount to the charity but lower the Required Minimum Distribution that must be recognized as ordinary income. The shifting also gives the taxpayers the advantage of a higher amount of the standard deduction than the itemized deduction.
As always, before taking action, you should get advice from your tax professional on how this strategy may impact you. There is information available on www.IRS.com for IRS Required Minimum Distribution FAQs and Qualified Charitable Distributions.