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Most deductions of money or property made to qualified charitable organizations are deductible from your income tax.

There is a cap on the maximum amount of charitable contributions that can be deducted in any one year.

You can only deduct the value in excess of any goods and services you receive in return from the charity.

There are special rules for:

  • Donations of more than $250
  • Donations made by payroll deduction
  • Donations of motor vehicles, boats and airplanes.

If you are donating property, it is advisable to give appreciated assets and not to give assets that have declined in value.

Contributions of time are not deductible - but any expenses incurred while donating time are deductible.

For additional information, see:

How To Determine If An Organization Qualifies As An IRS Charitable Organization

If you'd like to make sure that an organization qualifies as a charitable organization for tax purposes, check IRS Publication 78.  You can see the publication at or call the IRS at 800.829.1040.

Limit On Total Amount Of Deductible Charitable Contributions

Your deduction for any given year is limited to a total of 50% of your adjusted gross income for donations of cash.

Limits below 50% also apply to specific types of property and contributions made to certain types of organizations. For example, gifts of appreciated securities are limited to 30% of adjusted gross income.

Any disallowed deduction can be carried over for the next five years.

If Any Single Charitable Contribution Is $250 Or More

If you make a single contribution of $250 or more in the form of unreimbursed expenses, then you musts obtain a written acknowledgment from the charity containing:

  • A description of the services you provided, AND
  • A statement of whether or not the organization provided goods and services in return for the contribution, AND
  • A description and good faith estimate of the value of goods and services, if any, that an organization provided in return for the contribution AND
  • A statement that the goods or services, if any, that an organization provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits, if that was the case.
  • PLUS you must keep adequate records of the unreimbursed expenses. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for a description of the necessary records.

Charitable Contributions Made By Payroll Deduction

If you make a charitable contribution by payroll deduction in which no single contribution is $250 or more, you either need:

  • A written communication from the charity showing the amount of the contribution made during the year OR
  • A pay stub, form W2, Wage and Tax Statement or other employer-furnished document furnished by the employer that shows the amount withheld and paid to a charitable organization OR
  • A pledge card prepared by or at  the direction of the charitable organization.

If you make a charitable contribution by payroll deduction in which at least one contribution is $250 or more, you must use both of the following documents as the written acknowledgement obtained from the charitable organization:

  • A pay stub, Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement,  or other document furnished by the employer that sets forth the amount withheld by the employer and paid to the charitable organization AND
  • A pledge card that includes a statement to the effect that the organization does not provide goods or services in consideration for contributions to the organization by payroll deduction.
  • Each payroll deduction in the amount of $250 or more is treated as a separate contribution for purposes of this threshold requirement for written acknowledgements.

Contributions Of Time To Charitable Organizations

You cannot deduct the value of your time, even if it is used to raise money for the organization, and even if the activity is the same way you earn your living.  For example, if you are lawyer and you draft a contract for a charity, the value of your time is not deductible.

However, costs related to volunteer work are deductible, including the following:

  • The cost and upkeep of uniforms that are not suitable for everyday use that you must wear while performing volunteer services.
  • Transportation expenses for travel to and from your volunteer work site. If you travel by car, you can deduct the cost of gas and oil or $.14 per mile traveled in 2008, plus parking fees and tolls. 
  • The cost of public transportation.