As year end approaches, many individuals are in the charitable giving mood. With that in mind, I offer one additional suggestion.
Recently, Congress has changed the nature of charitable giving, by allowing contributions to be made directly from retirement accounts to charitable organizations.
Here is one example of how it works:
Bill an IRA owner whom is 71 has Required Minimum Distributions from his IRA account. He also is very charitable by nature and customarily gives a significant amount to his church as well as other organizations. Now, Bill can schedule to make direct payments from his retirement account to the charitable organizations of his choice. These amounts are considered to be required minimum distributions for purposes of "testing" for the IRA at year end. But, the nice part is that these amounts are not taxable income to Bill. Since, he did not constructively receive these amounts, this is not taxable income to Bill even if he does not itemize (if Bill did itemize then this exercise would be kind of pointless because he would end up in virtually the same place anyway).
Please remember two things about these types of contributions. First, make sure the money is sent directly from the IRA account to the charity of your choice. Second, these amounts are not includable as "Schedule A" itemized deductions because they are amounts sent directly to the charity itself, and are therefore not included in income when they are sent.
As always, there may be specially circumstances surrounding your particular tax situation. Please consult a tax professional regarding tax consequences before making significant changes to your individual tax situation.