How Do I Figure Charity Deductions?

Contrary to popular belief, you are not "allowed" to claim a certain amount of contributions (or any deduction), unless you actually did incur the expense. You must also be able to provide proof of such expenses in the event of an audit.

Generally, you can deduct cash or check contributions to any church or recognized charitable organization. You may not deduct donations to political candidates or groups, lobbying groups, foreign charities or made directly to an individual. You also cannot deduct donations to "tax exempt" or "non-profit" organizations that do not qualify to accept tax-deductible donations.

If you receive any goods or services in return for your donation, you must limit your deduction to the amount by which the donation exceeds the value of what you received in return.

See the following questions for donations of property, receipts, and volunteer expenses.

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