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IRS Highlights Special Charitable Tax Benefit

The IRS has joined with several leading nonprofit groups to highlight a special tax provision that allows more people to deduct donations to qualifying charities on their 2021 income tax return. Accordingly, the Independent Sector and National Council of Nonprofits joined with the IRS to highlight this pandemic-related provision where married couples filing jointly can deduct up to $600 in cash donations and individual taxpayers can deduct up to $300 in donations.

Taxpayers do not need to itemize deductions on their tax returns, under the temporary law, to take advantage of the tax provision, which creates tax-favorable donation options not normally available to about 90 percent of tax filers. Ordinarily, people who choose to take the standard deduction cannot claim a deduction for their charitable contributions. But this special provision permits them to claim a limited deduction on their 2021 federal income tax returns for cash contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations by December 31, 2021.

Further, the IRS highlighted the new provision and urged people to make sure they donate to a qualifying charity. The special Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on the IRS website can help people make sure they donate to a qualified charity. Cash contributions to most charitable organizations qualify for a deduction. But contributions made either to supporting organizations or to establish or maintain a donor advised fund do not. Contributions carried forward from prior years do not qualify, nor do contributions to most private foundations and most cash contributions to charitable remainder trusts.

Nearly nine in ten taxpayers take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify. Under this provision, tax year 2021 individual tax filers, including married individuals filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities during 2021. The maximum deduction is increased to $600 for married individuals filing joint returns. Moreover, cash contributions include those made by check, credit card or debit card as well as amounts incurred by an individual for unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses in connection with their volunteer services to a qualifying charitable organization. However, cash contributions do not include the value of volunteer services, securities, household items or other property.

Finally, the IRS encouraged all donors to be wary of scams masked as charitable solicitations. Criminals create fake charities to take advantage of the public’s generosity. Fake charities once again made the IRS’s Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for 2021. In October, the IRS also joined international organizations and other regulators in highlighting the fight against charity fraud.

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