What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Charitable Giving

What does the holiday season mean to you?  For many, it is a time where families come together and celebrate their traditions and the spirit of the holidays. It’s also the season for giving: Americans donated a whopping $373.25 billion last year. While giving to your favorite cause means much more than just tax savings, if you decide to donate your time, money or services/products to a charitable cause, understanding how the IRS treats contributions from a tax-deduction perspective can help you maximize your dollars and efforts. Here’s what entrepreneurs and their businesses need to know.

Not Every Charity is Eligible with the IRS. If you have a cause in mind, you can determine if it’s an eligible 501(c)(3) for tax-deduction purposes using this IRS search tool.

What You Can and Can’t Deduct. There are many types of tax-eligible contributions, and the IRS handles them all differently. These are some general guidelines:

  • Donating Money – Typically, monetary contributions made within the current tax year can be claimed for a deduction and itemized on Schedule A of your return.
  • Donating Inventory or Property – You can deduct the fair market value of inventory or property donated, but the contribution must be made to the organization. For example, backpacks made by your company and donated to children at a youth center would not be ineligible, but if provided to the youth center itself to distribute, they would. The fair market value must be assessed for anything over $500, and items over $5,000 generally require an appraisal. A tax attorney can help you properly value and classify all kinds of donations based on very specific IRS rules.
  • Volunteering – While the monetary value of services your business renders can’t be claimed, some expenses incurred for performing them can. For example, if your marketing firm has agreed to assist with the design and printing of invitations, t-shirts and flyers for an upcoming charity auction, the cost of t-shirts, printing, and mileage to and from the event can be deducted. However, your normal rate for designing and developing those projects cannot.
  • Getting Something in Return – If you receive something as a result of making a contribution, your efforts may be classified as something other than a donation. For example, let’s say your company makes soccer balls and you donate to a local soccer league that, in return, runs an ad for your business at their facility. This is now an advertising expense that can be deducted on Schedule C. Here’s a different scenario: You make a contribution of $1,000 to an organization and, in return, receive admission to a sporting event for which a ticket would normally cost $300. The IRS allows you to deduct the difference, which in this case would be $700.

Limits, Deadlines and Paperwork
No more than 50 percent of your income can be claimed as a tax deduction, and all donations must be paid by the end of the tax year. The IRS also requires a written statement from the organizations you contribute to showing the place, date, amount and nature of the expenses claimed.

No matter the amount, your generosity in gifting time and money to worthwhile causes can have a significant impact on your tax liability. While tax considerations should never drive your charitable giving, it makes sense to structure your gifting to maximize the tax benefits. If you have questions regarding your gifting or estate plan, please contact Talley & Company today.

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