Many people pay a tithe, or 10 percent of their income, to a church or other religious organization. The Internal Revenue Service encourages Americans to help others with a special tax benefit. You can reduce your taxable income by giving money to qualifying churches, synagogues and other nonprofit institutions, including many educational, charitable or scientific organizations. However, you must follow IRS guidelines to get this benefit for your tithes and contributions.
Ask your church if it has tax-exempt status. Alternately, call the IRS at 877-829-5500 to find out. If your church is not tax-exempt, you can't deduct your tithes.
Pay your tithes and other contributions in a way that leaves a paper trail or gets you a receipt. You can't claim a deduction for loose cash in the collection plate without a receipt. The IRS accepts proof such as canceled checks, bank or credit card statements, payroll deduction records and written receipts from your church.
Request an annual receipt from your church for the tax year.
Total your church's year-end receipt with other receipts or documents for cash contributions. Record the sum on line 16 of Schedule A of Form 1040.
Complete schedule A and add up all your deductions.
Compare this total to your standard deduction. The standard deduction for most taxpayers depends on their filing status. Look at the list on Form 1040 on the left of line 40 to find your amount. If your contributions are greater than your standard deduction, write this amount on line 40 of Form 1040.
File your completed Form 1040, Schedule A and other tax forms. Do not attach your receipts for tithes and charitable contributions. Keep them with your income tax records.
Items you will need
- Bank and credit card statements or payroll deduction records
- IRS Form 1040
- IRS Schedule A
- If your total deductions come to more than the standard deduction, your taxes are usually lower if you itemize, according to the IRS. If not, your taxes are usually lower if you don't itemize.
- The IRS database Exempt Organizations Select Check lists many, but not all, qualifying organizations.
- Write the market value of qualifying contributions of property on line 17 of Schedule A. For example, include contributions to charity of electronic goods or clothing. Follow the Schedule A instructions for amounts of more than $500.
- The IRS does not allow deductions for gifts to most foreign organizations.
- In some cases, your deductions for charity are limited to 20, 30 or 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. See Publication 526 if this applies to you.
- Internal Revenue Service: Charitable Contribution Deductions
- Internal Revenue Service: Exempt Organizations General Issues -- Eligible Charitable Donees
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 526 -- Charitable Contributions
- Internal Revenue Service: 2011 Instructions for Schedule A (Form 1040)
- Internal Revenue Service: 1040 Instructions 2011
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