Qualified charitable distributions allow IRA owners over the age of 70.5 to directly transfer up to $100,000 tax free from their IRA (excluding SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs) to eligible charities.
These charitable distributions are not included in your gross income, but any charitable distribution made in excess of $100,000 counts as income just like any other distribution.
For married couples filing jointly, each spouse can have a qualified charitable distribution and exclude up to $100,000 each from their gross income.
The excluded charitable distribution amounts can be used to satisfy required minimum distributions you must receive from your IRA for 2010 and 2011.
Note that you cannot claim a charitable contribution deduction for any qualified charitable distribution that you exclude from your income.
Completing a charitable distribution requires the same written acknowledgement you would need in order to claim a deduction for a normal charitable donation.