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Publication 526

Contributions You Can Deduct(p3)

Generally, you can deduct contributions of money or property you make to, or for the use of, a qualified organization. A contribution is "for the use of" a qualified organization when it is held in a legally enforceable trust for the qualified organization or in a similar legal arrangement.
The contributions must be made to a qualified organization and not set aside for use by a specific person.
If you give property to a qualified organization, you generally can deduct the fair market value (FMV) of the property at the time of the contribution. See Contributions of Property, later.
Your deduction for charitable contributions generally can't be more than 60% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but in some cases 20%, 30%, or 50% limits may apply.
The 60% limit is suspended for certain disaster related contributions. See Qualified contributions for California wildfire relief efforts, later.
Table 1 gives examples of contributions you can and can't deduct.

Table 1.Examples of Charitable Contributions—A Quick Check

Use the following lists for a quick check of whether you can deduct a contribution. See the rest of this publication for more information and additional rules and limits that may apply.

Deductible As
Charitable Contributions
Not Deductible As
Charitable Contributions
Money or property you give to:Money or property you give to:
  • Churches, synagogues, temples,
    mosques, and other religious
  • Federal, state, and local
    governments, if your contribution is
    solely for public purposes (for
    example, a gift to reduce the public
    debt or maintain a public park)
  • Nonprofit schools and hospitals
  • The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, CARE, Goodwill Industries, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, etc.
  • War veterans' groups

Expenses paid for a student living with you, sponsored by a qualified organization

Out-of-pocket expenses when you serve a qualified organization as a volunteer
  • Civic leagues, social and sports
    clubs, labor unions, and chambers of
  • Foreign organizations (except certain
    Canadian, Israeli, and Mexican
  • Groups that are run for personal
  • Groups whose purpose is to lobby for
    law changes
  • Homeowners' associations
  • Individuals
  • Political groups or candidates for
    public office

Cost of raffle, bingo, or lottery tickets

Dues, fees, or bills paid to country clubs, lodges, fraternal orders, or similar groups


Value of your time or services

Value of blood given to a blood bank


Contributions From Which You Benefit(p3)

If you receive a benefit as a result of making a contribution to a qualified organization, you can deduct only the amount of your contribution that is more than the value of the benefit you receive. Also see Contributions From Which You Benefit under Contributions You Can't Deduct, later.
If you pay more than fair market value to a qualified organization for goods or services, the excess may be a charitable contribution. For the excess amount to qualify, you must pay it with the intent to make a charitable contribution.

Example 1.(p3)

You pay $65 for a ticket to a dinner dance at a church. Your entire $65 payment goes to the church. The ticket to the dinner dance has a fair market value of $25. When you buy your ticket, you know its value is less than your payment. To figure the amount of your charitable contribution, subtract the value of the benefit you receive ($25) from your total payment ($65). You can deduct $40 as a charitable contribution to the church.

Example 2.(p3)

At a fundraising auction conducted by a charity, you pay $600 for a week's stay at a beach house. The amount you pay is no more than the fair rental value. You haven't made a deductible charitable contribution.

Charity benefit events.(p3)

If you pay a qualified organization more than fair market value for the right to attend a charity ball, banquet, show, sporting event, or other benefit event, you can deduct only the amount that is more than the value of the privileges or other benefits you receive.
If there is an established charge for the event, that charge is the value of your benefit. If there is no established charge, the reasonable value of the right to attend the event is the value of your benefit. Whether you use the tickets or other privileges has no effect on the amount you can deduct. However, if you return the ticket to the qualified organization for resale, you can deduct the entire amount you paid for the ticket.
Even if the ticket or other evidence of payment indicates that the payment is a "contribution," this doesn't mean you can deduct the entire amount. If the ticket shows the price of admission and the amount of the contribution, you can deduct the contribution amount.


You pay $40 to see a special showing of a movie for the benefit of a qualified organization. Printed on the ticket is "Contribution—$40." If the regular price for the movie is $8, your contribution is $32 ($40 payment − $8 regular price).

Membership fees or dues.(p3)

You may be able to deduct membership fees or dues you pay to a qualified organization. However, you can deduct only the amount that is more than the value of the benefits you receive.
You can't deduct dues, fees, or assessments paid to country clubs and other social organizations. They aren't qualified organizations.
Certain membership benefits can be disregarded.(p4)
Both you and the organization can disregard the following membership benefits if you get them in return for an annual payment of $75 or less.
  1. Any rights or privileges that you can use frequently while you are a member, such as:
    1. Free or discounted admission to the organization's facilities or events,
    2. Free or discounted parking,
    3. Preferred access to goods or services, and
    4. Discounts on the purchase of goods and services.
    But, item (1) doesn’t include rights to purchase tickets for seating at an athletic event in an athletic stadium of a college or university as a result of a contribution to such institution.

  2. Admission, while you are a member, to events open only to members of the organization if the organization reasonably projects that the cost per person (excluding any allocated overhead) isn't more than $10.80.

Token items.(p4)

You don't have to reduce your contribution by the value of any benefit you receive if both of the following are true.
  1. You receive only a small item or other benefit of token value.
  2. The qualified organization correctly determines that the value of the item or benefit you received isn't substantial and informs you that you can deduct your payment in full.
The organization determines whether the value of an item or benefit is substantial by using Revenue Procedures 90-12 and 92-49 and the inflation adjustment in Revenue Procedure 2018-18.

Written statement.(p4)

A qualified organization must give you a written statement if you make a payment of more than $75 that is partly a contribution and partly for goods or services. The statement must say you can deduct only the amount of your payment that is more than the value of the goods or services you received. It also must give you a good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services.
The organization can give you the statement either when it solicits or when it receives the payment from you.
An organization won't have to give you this statement if one of the following is true.
  1. The organization is:
    1. A governmental organization described in (5) under Types of Qualified Organizations, earlier, or
    2. An organization formed only for religious purposes, and the only benefit you receive is an intangible religious benefit (such as admission to a religious ceremony) that generally isn't sold in commercial transactions outside the donative context.
  2. You receive only items whose value isn't substantial as described under Token items, earlier.
  3. You receive only membership benefits that can be disregarded, as described under Membership fees or dues, earlier.

Expenses Paid for Student Living With You(p4)

You may be able to deduct some expenses of having a student live with you. You can deduct qualifying expenses for a foreign or American student who:
  1. Lives in your home under a written agreement between you and a qualified organization (defined later) as part of a program of the organization to provide educational opportunities for the student,
  2. Isn't your relative (defined later) or dependent (also defined later), and
  3. Is a full-time student in the twelfth or any lower grade at a school in the United States.
You can deduct up to $50 a month for each full calendar month the student lives with you. Any month when conditions (1) through (3) are met for 15 or more days counts as a full month.

Qualified organization.(p4)

For these purposes, a qualified organization can be any of the organizations described earlier under Types of Qualified Organizations, except those in (4) and (5). For example, if you are providing a home for a student as part of a state or local government program, you can't deduct your expenses as charitable contributions. But see Foster parents under Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Giving Services, later, if you provide the home as a foster parent.


The term "relative" means any of the following persons.


For this purpose, the term "dependent" means:
  1. A person you can claim as a dependent, or
  2. A person you could have claimed as a dependent except that:
    1. He or she received gross income of $4,150 or more;
    2. He or she filed a joint return; or
    3. You, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent on someone else's 2018 return.
Foreign students brought to this country under a qualified international education exchange program and placed in American homes for a temporary period generally aren't U.S. residents and can't be claimed as dependents.

Qualifying expenses.(p4)

You may be able to deduct the cost of books, tuition, food, clothing, transportation, medical and dental care, entertainment, and other amounts you actually spend for the well-being of the student.

Expenses that don't qualify.(p4)

You can't deduct depreciation on your home, the fair market value of lodging, and similar items not considered amounts actually spent by you. Nor can you deduct general household expenses, such as taxes, insurance, and repairs.
Reimbursed expenses.(p4)
In most cases, you can't claim a charitable contribution deduction if you are compensated or reimbursed for any part of the costs of having a student live with you. However, you may be able to claim a charitable contribution deduction for the unreimbursed portion of your expenses if you are reimbursed only for an extraordinary or one-time item, such as a hospital bill or vacation trip, you paid in advance at the request of the student's parents or the sponsoring organization.
Mutual exchange program.(p4)
You can't deduct the costs of a foreign student living in your home under a mutual exchange program through which your child will live with a family in a foreign country.

Reporting expenses.(p4)

For a list of what you must file with your return if you deduct expenses for a student living with you, see Reporting expenses for student living with you under How To Report, later.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Giving Services(p4)


Table 2.Volunteers' Questions and Answers

If you volunteer for a qualified organization, the following questions and answers may apply to you. All of the rules explained in this publication also apply. See, in particular, Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Giving Services.

I volunteer 6 hours a week in the office of a qualified organization. The receptionist is paid $10 an hour for the same work. Can I deduct $60 a week for my time? No, you can't deduct the value of your time or services.

The office is 30 miles from my home. Can I deduct any of my car expenses for these trips?
Yes, you can deduct the costs of gas and oil that are directly related to
getting to and from the place where you volunteer. If you don't
want to figure your actual costs, you can deduct 14 cents for each
I volunteer as a Red Cross nurse's aide at a hospital. Can I deduct the cost of the uniforms I must wear?Yes, you can deduct the cost of buying and cleaning your uniforms if
the hospital is a qualified organization, the uniforms aren't suitable for
everyday use, and you must wear them when volunteering.
I pay a babysitter to watch my children while I volunteer for a qualified organization. Can I deduct these costs?No, you can't deduct payments for childcare expenses as a
charitable contribution, even if you would be unable to volunteer without childcare. (If you have childcare expenses so you can work for pay, see Pub. 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.)

Although you can't deduct the value of your services given to a qualified organization, you may be able to deduct some amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization. The amounts must be:
Table 2 contains questions and answers that apply to some individuals who volunteer their services.

Underprivileged youths selected by charity.(p4)

You can deduct reasonable unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses you pay to allow underprivileged youths to attend athletic events, movies, or dinners. The youths must be selected by a charitable organization whose goal is to reduce juvenile delinquency. Your own similar expenses in accompanying the youths aren't deductible.


If a qualified organization selects you to attend a convention as its representative, you can deduct your unreimbursed expenses for travel, including reasonable amounts for meals and lodging, while away from home overnight for the convention. However, see Travel, later.
You can't deduct personal expenses for sightseeing, fishing parties, theater tickets, or nightclubs. You also can't deduct travel, meals and lodging, and other expenses for your spouse or children.
You can't deduct your travel expenses in attending a church convention if you go only as a member of your church rather than as a chosen representative. You can, however, deduct unreimbursed expenses that are directly connected with giving services for your church during the convention.


You can deduct the cost and upkeep of uniforms that aren't suitable for everyday use and that you must wear while performing donated services for a charitable organization.

Foster parents.(p5)

You may be able to deduct as a charitable contribution some of the costs of being a foster parent (foster care provider) if you have no profit motive in providing the foster care and aren't, in fact, making a profit. A qualified organization must select the individuals you take into your home for foster care.
You can deduct expenses that meet both of the following requirements.
  1. They are unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses to feed, clothe, and care for the foster child.
  2. They are incurred primarily to benefit the qualified organization.
Unreimbursed expenses that you can't deduct as charitable contributions may be considered support provided by you in determining whether you can claim the foster child as a dependent. For details, see Pub. 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.


You cared for a foster child because you wanted to adopt her, not to benefit the agency that placed her in your home. Your unreimbursed expenses aren't deductible as charitable contributions.

Church deacon.(p5)

You can deduct as a charitable contribution any unreimbursed expenses you have while in a permanent diaconate program established by your church. These expenses include the cost of vestments, books, and transportation required in order to serve in the program as either a deacon candidate or an ordained deacon.

Car expenses.(p5)

You can deduct as a charitable contribution any unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil, directly related to the use of your car in giving services to a charitable organization. You can't deduct general repair and maintenance expenses, depreciation, registration fees, or the costs of tires or insurance.
If you don't want to deduct your actual expenses, you can use a standard mileage rate of 14 cents a mile to figure your contribution.
You can deduct parking fees and tolls whether you use your actual expenses or the standard mileage rate.
You must keep reliable written records of your car expenses. For more information, see Car expenses under Records To Keep, later.


Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses necessarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. This applies whether you pay the expenses directly or indirectly. You are paying the expenses indirectly if you make a payment to the charitable organization and the organization pays for your travel expenses.
The deduction for travel expenses won't be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you don't have any duties, you can't deduct your travel expenses.

Example 1.(p5)

You are a troop leader for a tax-exempt youth group and you take the group on a camping trip. You are responsible for overseeing the setup of the camp and for providing adult supervision for other activities during the entire trip. You participate in the activities of the group and enjoy your time with them. You oversee the breaking of camp and you transport the group home. You can deduct your travel expenses.

Example 2.(p5)

You sail from one island to another and spend 8 hours a day counting whales and other forms of marine life. The project is sponsored by a charitable organization. In most circumstances, you can't deduct your expenses.

Example 3.(p5)

You work for several hours each morning on an archeological dig sponsored by a charitable organization. The rest of the day is free for recreation and sightseeing. You can't take a charitable contribution deduction even though you work very hard during those few hours.

Example 4.(p5)

You spend the entire day attending a charitable organization's regional meeting as a chosen representative. In the evening you go to the theater. You can claim your travel expenses as charitable contributions, but you can't claim the cost of your evening at the theater.
Daily allowance (per diem).(p5)
If you provide services for a charitable organization and receive a daily allowance to cover reasonable travel expenses, including meals and lodging while away from home overnight, you must include in income any part of the allowance that is more than your deductible travel expenses. You may be able to deduct any necessary travel expenses that are more than the allowance.
Deductible travel expenses.(p5)
These include: Because these travel expenses aren't business-related, they aren't subject to the same limits as business-related expenses. For information on business travel expenses, see Travel in Pub. 463, Travel, Gift, and Car Expenses.

Expenses of Whaling Captains(p6)

You may be able to deduct as a charitable contribution any reasonable and necessary whaling expenses you pay during the year to carry out sanctioned whaling activities. The deduction is limited to $10,000 a year. To claim the deduction, you must be recognized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission as a whaling captain charged with the responsibility of maintaining and carrying out sanctioned whaling activities.
Sanctioned whaling activities are subsistence bowhead whale hunting activities conducted under the management plan of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.
Whaling expenses include expenses for:
Where Refund
You must keep records showing the time, place, date, amount, and nature of the expenses. For details, see Revenue Procedure 2006-50, 2006-47 I.R.B. 944, available at