Relief Aid & Charitable Giving

This last month has been a devastating time on our side of the planet.  Two Large Cat4/5 Hurricanes in Texas and Florida along with am 8.1 Earth quake along the Mexican Coast.  Like so many, you may want to help give to Charities and Organizations that can help so many displaced people get back on their feet… But some things you need to know when you give.

When giving to Charitable Organizations, please be aware that in order for those donations to be tax deductible, an organization much be an Eligible Organization registered with the IRS.   Just because an organization is asking for funds, does not mean that they are deductible for tax purposes.  But don’t necessarily let that stop you from donating either, just be careful the donation is not a scam.  Giving to registered organizations protects you more than giving to just anyone who pops up a GoFund me campaign.  That doesn’t mean that these aren’t registered, just be careful that your money is going where you want it to go.  If you donate, you should be aware of what you can and can not deduct on your Income tax returns.

There are essentially 2 kinds of donations – Cash donations and Goods donated.

  • The Cash Donations are pretty straight forward. So long as you do not get any benefit from the donation, the donation is 100% includable on your tax returns (see below on those rules).
  • Then there’s the Cash contributions where you donate but you get something in return – a Trip, a Dinner, 2 tickets to a sporting event – these donations are limited to the amount that EXCEEDS the Value of what you received. Example, you go onto an online auction that is benefiting a charity you like – let’s say the Humane Society – They have 2 tickets to your favorite sports team up and you bid and you win.  Your bid was $500, the Fair Market Value of those tickets was $400 – your deduction is limited to $100 (Your $500 less the value of $400).  Now let’s say your bid was $300 and you still won – you would have no donation value as the tickets FMV was more than what you purchased them for.  Now that doesn’t mean that your $300 didn’t go to the Charity, someone bought the tickets and someone donated them and your purchase goes to the charity – however the person who donated the tickets gets the donation, but not you – you get to go see your favorite team win 🙂
  • The other side of this then is the person who donates the goods for the event. If you are donating something of value that you can’t prove the FMV, get an appraisal before you donate the antique, painting or other tangible good.   There are more rules on this, but that is not the topic of this blog so I’m going to stop here on this for now, just know that you can’t just give that item to a Charity and claim it to be a famous Picaso.
  • Maybe you just want to go and help clean up.  First get yourself registered with an Organization that can coordinate where and if they need you.  If they do need you, Only your Out of Pocket Costs can be deducted.  You can not deduct for your time or lost wages.

So how do you know who is and isn’t eligible?   The IRS has an online Exempt Organization Search Tool where you can search the database or download the Extensive (yes, over 900,000 entities) list.

IRS Tool:

Master List:

Keep in mind, even if the Organization qualifies, you may not be able to take advantage of the donation you make.  Here are some general rules:

  1. First you must be able to Itemize your deductions vs taking the Standard Deduction. Donations are only deductible on your personal tax return if you can itemize.
  2. If you are an LLC or S-Corp, these contributions will pass thru to the Owners on their respective K-1 forms and are NOT business Deductions. Only C-Corps (entities that are considered independent from the Stockholders) may claim the deductions on their returns.
  3. Be sure you have written proof from the Charitable Organization for any Contributions totaling over $250 in a calendar year. The Organization is required to provide this to you and you must keep this with your tax records
  4. If you donate Non-Cash Property (ie Antiques, Paintings, Jewelry) be sure you get an appraisal if your donation has a value of over $5,000.
  5. You may also donate vehicles but keep in mind, there are special rules that limit you to a deduction for the value that the Organization receives for that donation if/when they sell it.
  6. Also, it’s important to understand that if you charitable donation is more than 20% of your adjusted gross income, your deductions may be limited.

First and foremost – DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you donate.  If  you are not donating to a long standing organization like Red Cross or United way, be sure that the organization is legitimate.  When these catastrophes happen, scammers also surface to take advantage of the situation.  For additional information, below is the link IRS Publication 526 for detailed information.   Or feel give us a call too.