Generally, you can deduct your contributions of money or property that you make to, or for the use of, a qualified organization. A gift or contribution is "for the use of" a qualified organization when it is held in a legally enforceable trust for the qualified organization or in a similar legal arrangement. The contributions must be made to a qualified organization and not set aside for use by a specific person.
If you give property to a qualified organization, you generally can deduct the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution. See Contributions of Property
, later in this chapter.
Your deduction for charitable contributions is generally limited to 50% of your adjusted gross income, but in some cases 20% and 30% limits may apply. See Limits on Deductions
In addition, the total of your charitable contributions deduction and certain other itemized deductions may be limited. See chapter 29.
Table 24-1 lists some examples of contributions you can deduct and some that you cannot deduct.taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034106
If you pay more than fair market value to a qualified organization for merchandise, goods, or services, the amount you pay that is more than the value of the item can be a charitable contribution. For the excess amount to qualify, you must pay it with the intent to make a charitable contribution. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034107
You pay $65 for a ticket to a dinner-dance at a church. All of the proceeds of the function go to the church. The ticket to the dinner-dance has a fair market value of $25. When you buy your ticket, you know that its value is less than your payment. To figure the amount of your charitable contribution, you subtract the value of the benefit you receive ($25) from your total payment ($65). You can deduct $40 as a contribution to the church. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034108
At a fund-raising auction conducted by a charity, you pay $600 for a week's stay at a beach house. The amount you pay is no more than the fair rental value. You have not made a deductible charitable contribution. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034109
If you make a payment to, or for the benefit of, a college or university and, as a result, you receive the right to buy tickets to an athletic event in the athletic stadium of the college or university, you can deduct 80% of the payment as a charitable contribution.
If any part of your payment is for tickets (rather than the right to buy tickets), that part is not deductible. In that case, subtract the price of the tickets from your payment. 80% of the remaining amount is a charitable contribution. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034110
You pay $300 a year for membership in an athletic scholarship program maintained by a university (a qualified organization). The only benefit of membership is that you have the right to buy one season ticket for a seat in a designated area of the stadium at the university's home football games. You can deduct $240 (80% of $300) as a charitable contribution.
Table 24-1. Examples of Charitable Contributions—A Quick Check
|Use the following lists for a quick check of contributions you can or cannot deduct. See the rest of this chapter for more information and additional rules and limits that may apply.|
| Deductible As |
| Not Deductible |
As Charitable Contributions
|Money or property you give to:|
- Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other religious organizations
- Federal, state, and local governments, if your contribution is solely for public purposes (for example, a gift to reduce the public debt)
- Nonprofit schools and hospitals
- Public parks and recreation facilities
- Salvation Army, Red Cross, CARE, Goodwill Industries, United Way, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, etc.
- War veterans groups
- Charitable organizations listed in Publication 78
- Expenses paid for a student living with you, sponsored by a qualified organization
- Out-of-pocket expenses when you serve a qualified organization as a volunteer
|Money or property you give to:|
- Civic leagues, social and sports clubs, labor unions, and chambers of commerce
- Foreign organizations (except certain Canadian, Israeli, and Mexican charities)
- Groups that are run for personal profit
- Groups whose purpose is to lobby for law changes
- Homeowners' associations
- Political groups or candidates for public office
- Cost of raffle, bingo, or lottery tickets
- Dues, fees, or bills paid to country clubs, lodges, fraternal orders, or similar groups
- Value of your time or services
- Value of blood given to a blood bank
The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that your $300 payment included the purchase of one season ticket for the stated ticket price of $120. You must subtract the usual price of a ticket ($120) from your $300 payment. The result is $180. Your deductible charitable contribution is $144 (80% of $180).taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034112
If you pay a qualified organization more than fair market value for the right to attend a charity ball, banquet, show, sporting event, or other benefit event, you can deduct only the amount that is more than the value of the privileges or other benefits you receive.
If there is an established charge for the event, that charge is the value of your benefit. If there is no established charge, your contribution is that part of your payment that is more than the reasonable value of the right to attend the event. Whether you use the tickets or other privileges has no effect on the amount you can deduct. However, if you return the ticket to the qualified organization for resale, you can deduct the entire amount you paid for the ticket.
Even if the ticket or other evidence of payment indicates that the payment is a "contribution," this does not mean you can deduct the entire amount. If the ticket shows the price of admission and the amount of the contribution, you can deduct the contribution amount.
You pay $40 to see a special showing of a movie for the benefit of a qualified organization. Printed on the ticket is "Contribution—$40." If the regular price for the movie is $8, your contribution is $32 ($40 payment − $8 regular price).taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034115
You may be able to deduct membership fees or dues you pay to a qualified organization. However, you can deduct only the amount that is more than the value of the benefits you receive. You cannot deduct dues, fees, or assessments paid to country clubs and other social organizations. They are not qualified organizations. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034116
Both you and the organization can disregard certain membership benefits you get in return for an annual payment of $75 or less to the qualified organization. The benefits that can be disregarded are:
- Any rights or privileges, other than those discussed under Athletic events, earlier, that you can use frequently while you are a member, such as:
- Free or discounted admission to the organization's facilities or events,
- Free or discounted parking,
- Preferred access to goods or services, and
- Discounts on the purchase of goods and services.
- Admission, while you are a member, to events that are open only to members of the organization, if the organization reasonably projects that the cost per person (excluding any allocated overhead) is not more than $9.50.
You can deduct your entire payment to a qualified organization as a charitable contribution if both of the following are true.
- You get a small item or other benefit of token value.
- The qualified organization correctly determines that the value of the item or benefit you received is not substantial and informs you that you can deduct your payment in full.
A qualified organization must give you a written statement if you make a payment to it that is more than $75 and is partly a contribution and partly for goods or services. The statement must tell you that you can deduct only the amount of your payment that is more than the value of the goods or services you received. It must also give you a good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services.
The organization can give you the statement either when it solicits or when it receives the payment from you. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034119
An organization will not have to give you this statement if one of the following is true.
- The organization is:
- The type of organization described in (5) under Types of Qualified Organizations, earlier, or
- Formed only for religious purposes, and the only benefit you receive is an intangible religious benefit (such as admission to a religious ceremony) that generally is not sold in commercial transactions outside the donative context.
- You receive only items whose value is not substantial as described under Token items, earlier.
- You receive only membership benefits that can be disregarded, as described earlier.
You may be able to deduct some expenses of having a student live with you. You can deduct qualifying expenses for a foreign or American student who:
- Lives in your home under a written agreement between you and a qualified organization as part of a program of the organization to provide educational opportunities for the student,
- Is not your relative or dependent, and
- Is a full-time student in the twelfth or any lower grade at a school in the United States.
You can deduct up to $50 a month for each full calendar month the student lives with you. Any month when conditions (1) through (3) above are met for 15 days or more counts as a full month.
For additional information, see Expenses Paid for Student Living With You in Publication 526.taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034122
You cannot deduct the costs of a foreign student living in your home under a mutual exchange program through which your child will live with a family in a foreign country.
Table 24-2. Volunteers' Questions and Answers
|If you do volunteer work for a qualified organization, the following questions and answers may apply to you. All of the rules explained in this chapter also apply. See, in particular, Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Giving Services .|
| Question || Answer |
|I do volunteer work 6 hours a week in the office of a qualified organization. The receptionist is paid $10 an hour to do the same work I do. Can I deduct $60 a week for my time? |
|No, you cannot deduct the value of your time or services.|
|The office is 30 miles from my home. Can I deduct any of my car expenses for these trips?||Yes, you can deduct the costs of gas and oil that are directly related to getting to and from the place where you are a volunteer. If you don't want to figure your actual costs, you can deduct 14 cents for each mile.|
|I volunteer as a Red Cross nurse's aide at a hospital. Can I deduct the cost of uniforms that I must wear?||Yes, you can deduct the cost of buying and cleaning your uniforms if the hospital is a qualified organization, the uniforms are not suitable for everyday use, and you must wear them when volunteering.|
|I pay a babysitter to watch my children while I do volunteer work for a qualified organization. Can I deduct these costs?||No, you cannot deduct payments for child care expenses as a charitable contribution, even if they are necessary so you can do volunteer work for a qualified organization. (If you have child care expenses so you can work for pay, see chapter 32.)|
Although you cannot deduct the value of your services given to a qualified organization, you may be able to deduct some amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization. The amounts must be:
- Directly connected with the services,
- Expenses you had only because of the services you gave, and
- Not personal, living, or family expenses.
Table 24-2 contains questions and answers that apply to some individuals who volunteer their services.taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034124
If you are a chosen representative attending a convention of a qualified organization, you can deduct actual unreimbursed expenses for travel and transportation, including a reasonable amount for meals and lodging, while away from home overnight in connection with the convention. However, see Travel
You cannot deduct personal expenses for sightseeing, fishing parties, theater tickets, or nightclubs. You also cannot deduct transportation, meals and lodging, and other expenses for your spouse or children.
You cannot deduct your expenses in attending a church convention if you go only as a member of your church rather than as a chosen representative. You can deduct unreimbursed expenses that are directly connected with giving services for your church during the convention. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034125
You can deduct the cost and upkeep of uniforms that are not suitable for everyday use and that you must wear while performing donated services for a charitable organization. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034126
You may be able to deduct as a charitable contribution some of the costs of being a foster parent (foster care provider) if you have no profit motive in providing the foster care and are not, in fact, making a profit. A qualified organization must designate the individuals you take into your home for foster care.
You can deduct expenses that meet both of the following requirements.
- They are unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses to feed, clothe, and care for the foster child.
- They must be mainly to benefit the qualified organization.
Unreimbursed expenses that you cannot deduct as charitable contributions may be considered support provided by you in determining whether you can claim the foster child as a dependent. For details, see chapter 3
You cared for a foster child because you wanted to adopt her, not to benefit the agency that placed her in your home. Your unreimbursed expenses are not deductible as charitable contributions.taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034128
You can deduct unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil, that are directly related to the use of your car in giving services to a charitable organization. You cannot deduct general repair and maintenance expenses, depreciation, registration fees, or the costs of tires or insurance.
If you do not want to deduct your actual expenses, you can use a standard mileage rate of 14 cents a mile to figure your contribution.
You can deduct parking fees and tolls whether you use your actual expenses or the standard mileage rate. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034129
Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses necessarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. This applies whether you pay the expenses directly or indirectly. You are paying the expenses indirectly if you make a payment to the charitable organization and the organization pays for your travel expenses.
The deduction for travel expenses will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you do not have any duties, you cannot deduct your travel expenses. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034130
You are a troop leader for a tax-exempt youth group and you help take the group on a camping trip. You are responsible for overseeing the setup of the camp and for providing adult supervision for other activities during the entire trip. You participate in the activities of the group and really enjoy your time with them. You oversee the breaking of camp and you help transport the group home. You can deduct your travel expenses. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034131
You sail from one island to another and spend 8 hours a day counting whales and other forms of marine life. The project is sponsored by a charitable organization. In most circumstances, you cannot deduct your expenses. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034132
You work for several hours each morning on an archaeological dig sponsored by a charitable organization. The rest of the day is free for recreation and sightseeing. You cannot take a charitable contribution deduction even though you work very hard during those few hours. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034133
You spend the entire day attending a charitable organization's regional meeting as a chosen representative. In the evening you go to the theater. You can claim your travel expenses as charitable contributions, but you cannot claim the cost of your evening at the theater. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034134
If you provide services for a charitable organization and receive a daily allowance to cover reasonable travel expenses, including meals and lodging while away from home overnight, you must include in income the amount of the allowance that is more than your deductible travel expenses. You can deduct your necessary travel expenses that are more than the allowance. taxmap/pub17/p17-130.htm#en_us_publink100034135
- Air, rail, and bus transportation,
- Out-of-pocket expenses for your car,
- Taxi fares or other costs of transportation between the airport or station and your hotel,
- Lodging costs, and
- The cost of meals.
Because these travel expenses are not business-related, they are not subject to the same limits as business-related expenses. For information on business travel expenses, see Travel Expenses
in chapter 26.