The IRS allows taxpayers to claim a deduction for donations of money and goods to qualifying charitable organizations, including churches. Generally, you can claim the deduction whether you give regularly in the form of tithes and offerings or you make a one-time donation. The IRS has specific guidelines regarding what qualifies as a charitable donation, how much you can deduct and how to report donations on your taxes.
What You Can Deduct
IRS Publication 526 establishes what you can and cannot claim a deduction as a charitable contribution. Generally, you can deduct monetary donations minus the value of any benefit you received. For example, if you donate $50 to purchase a ticket to a church fundraiser but the ticket's actual value is only $10, you can deduct the remaining $40 as a charitable contribution. You can also deduct donations of property, including clothing, household items, furniture or cars as long as they're in good condition and you're not deducting more than the item's fair market value. Volunteers can also deduct certain unreimbursed expenses, such as transportation costs, that they incur while offering their services to the church.
If you plan to claim a deduction for church donations, keep a written record detailing what was donated, the amount or value of the donation and the date. The IRS also recommends keeping bank statements, credit card statements or canceled checks as proof of your donation. The church must provide you with a written statement documenting donations of more than $250. If you're claiming a deduction for property valued at between $500 and $5,000, the IRS requires you to give information about how and when you first acquired the item or items in question. To claim a deduction for items valued at more than $5,000, you must also provide a professional appraisal.
Claiming the Deduction
To claim charitable deductions, the IRS requires you to itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A. You must also complete Section A of Form 8283 for donations of property totaling less than $5,000. You must complete Section B of the form if you donate property worth more than $5,000. You can only claim the deduction for contributions that equal up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income in any given tax year. If your contributions exceed more than half of your gross income in a single year, you have the option of spreading the remaining amount of the deduction out over the next five years.
To claim a deduction for church donations, make sure the religious organization qualifies as tax-exempt. The IRS maintains a database of tax-exempt charities on its website where you can search for the organization. The IRS does not allow you to claim a deduction for certain donations, including donations made directly to individuals, donations made using a distribution from an Individual Retirement Account and the value of your time and/or services.
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