Charitable Tax Deductions

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on May 23, 2024

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What Are Charitable Tax Deductions?

Charitable tax deductions are a valuable tool that allows taxpayers to reduce their taxable income by donating to qualified charitable organizations.

These deductions encourage philanthropy and financially support nonprofits and charities that serve communities and address various social, environmental, and cultural needs.

Understanding the rules and regulations governing charitable tax deductions is essential for taxpayers who want to take advantage of this tax benefit.

Types of Charitable Organizations

Public Charities

Public charities are nonprofit organizations that receive a significant portion of their funding from the general public or the government. Examples include educational institutions, hospitals, and religious organizations.

Private Foundations

Private foundations are charitable organizations that are typically funded by a single source, such as an individual, family, or corporation. They often make grants to other charitable organizations rather than directly carrying out charitable activities.

Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are charitable investment accounts that allow donors to make contributions, receive immediate tax deductions, and recommend grants to qualified charities over time.

Other Qualified Organizations

Other qualified organizations include veterans' organizations, fraternal societies, and certain governmental entities.


Eligibility for Charitable Tax Deductions

Individual Taxpayers

Individual taxpayers who itemize their deductions on their tax returns are eligible to claim charitable tax deductions. The standard deduction may be more beneficial for some taxpayers, so it's important to compare the two options.

Corporate Taxpayers

Corporations can also claim charitable tax deductions, subject to certain limitations based on their taxable income.

Determining Qualified Organizations

Only donations to qualified organizations are eligible for tax deductions. The IRS provides a searchable database, the Tax Exempt Organization Search, to verify an organization's eligibility.

Contribution Limits

There are limits on the amount of charitable contributions that can be deducted in a given tax year, typically expressed as a percentage of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI). Excess contributions can be carried forward to future tax years.

Types of Donations for Charitable Tax Deductions

Monetary Contributions

Monetary contributions include cash, checks, credit card payments, and electronic transfers. These are the most straightforward donations to document and deduct. Be sure to keep receipts or bank records for all monetary donations.

Property Donations

Real Estate

Donations of real property, such as land or buildings, are eligible for deductions based on their fair market value (FMV). Donating real estate can be a strategic way to support a charity while reducing your tax burden.

Stocks and Bonds

Donating appreciated securities can provide additional tax benefits by avoiding capital gains taxes. This strategy is particularly effective for securities that have significantly increased in value.

Artwork and Collectibles

Donations of artwork and collectibles require special consideration, including appraisals, to determine their value. Proper documentation is essential to substantiate the deduction.


Donated vehicles like cars and boats have specific rules for determining the deductible amount. The deduction may be based on the gross proceeds from the sale of the vehicle by the charity.

In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations include goods and services, such as clothing, furniture, and professional services. Only the value of goods, not services, is deductible. It's important to estimate the fair market value of donated goods accurately.

Volunteer Services and Expenses

While the value of volunteer time is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses incurred while volunteering may be deductible. To claim this deduction, keep detailed records of expenses, such as mileage and supplies.

Calculating Charitable Tax Deductions

Fair Market Value (FMV) of Donations

The FMV of a donated item is the price it would fetch in an open market transaction between a willing buyer and seller. It is essential to use reputable sources or professional appraisals to determine FMV accurately.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Limitations

Deduction limits are based on a percentage of the taxpayer's AGI, with different limits for different types of contributions and organizations. Understanding these limits is crucial to maximizing the tax benefits of charitable giving.

Itemizing Deductions

Taxpayers must itemize their deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040 to claim charitable tax deductions. Itemizing is beneficial when total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction for the tax year.

Carryover Provisions

Excess charitable contributions that exceed AGI limitations can be carried forward and deducted in subsequent tax years, subject to the same limitations. Carryovers can be used for up to five years, helping taxpayers optimize their deductions over time.

Recordkeeping and Documentation for Charitable Tax Deductions

Receipts and Acknowledgements

Taxpayers must obtain written acknowledgments from the charitable organization for any single contribution of $250 or more.

The acknowledgment should include the donation amount, a description of any non-cash contributions, and a statement regarding any goods or services received in exchange for the donation.

Appraisals for High-Value Donations

Donations of non-cash property valued at more than $5,000 generally require a qualified appraisal to substantiate the claimed deduction.

IRS Form 8283 for Non-cash Donations

Taxpayers who donate non-cash property valued at more than $500 must complete and attach IRS Form 8283 to their tax return.

Special Rules for Donated Vehicles

Special rules apply to the donation of vehicles, including cars, boats, and airplanes. The deductible amount may be limited to the charity's gross proceeds from the sale of the vehicle.

Reporting Charitable Tax Deductions on Tax Returns

IRS Form 1040 Schedule A

Individual taxpayers who itemize deductions must report their charitable contributions on Schedule A of Form 1040. Contributions are reported in the "Gifts to Charity" section.

Corporate Tax Reporting

Corporations report their charitable contributions on Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, or Form 1120-S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation, as applicable.

Required Documentation for Tax Filing

Taxpayers should retain all receipts, acknowledgments, appraisals, and other documentation related to their charitable contributions for their records and potential audit purposes.

Common Misconceptions and Pitfalls in Charitable Tax Deductions

Non-deductible Donations

Not all donations are tax-deductible. For example, contributions to political campaigns, individuals, and foreign organizations are generally not deductible. It's essential to verify the deductibility of a donation before claiming it on your tax return.

Ineligible Organizations

Donations to organizations that the IRS does not recognize as qualified charitable organizations are not deductible. Always check the IRS's Tax Exempt Organization Search tool to confirm an organization's eligibility.

Timing of Contributions

The timing of contributions is important. To be deductible, contributions must be made by the end of the tax year for which the deduction is claimed. Donations made after December 31 may only be deducted in the following tax year.

Overvaluing Donated Items

Taxpayers must accurately determine the fair market value of donated items. Overvaluing items can result in IRS scrutiny and potential penalties. Use reputable sources and appraisals to ensure accurate valuation.

Tax Planning Strategies for Maximizing Charitable Tax Deductions

Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-advised funds allow taxpayers to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction, and recommend grants to charities over time. This strategy offers flexibility in grantmaking and allows for strategic philanthropy.

Bunching Contributions

Bunching contributions involve making multiple years' worth of donations in a single year to exceed the standard deduction and maximize itemized deductions. This approach can be especially beneficial in years with higher income or significant tax liabilities.

Charitable Remainder Trusts

Charitable remainder trusts provide income to the donor for a specified period, with the remaining assets eventually passing to a designated charity. This estate planning tool can offer tax advantages while supporting a meaningful cause.

Gifts of Appreciated Assets

Donating appreciated assets, such as stocks, allows taxpayers to avoid capital gains taxes while receiving a deduction for the full fair market value of the assets. This strategy is ideal for long-held investments with significant appreciation.


Charitable tax deductions play a crucial role in supporting the work of charitable organizations and promoting philanthropy.

By understanding the rules and regulations governing these deductions, taxpayers can maximize their tax benefits while positively impacting their communities.

Proper planning and recordkeeping are essential to ensure compliance with IRS requirements and to optimize the tax advantages of charitable giving.

Ultimately, charitable tax deductions benefit individuals, businesses, and charitable organizations, contributing to the greater good of society.

Charitable Tax Deductions FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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