Can Material Items Donated to a Church Be Tax Deductible?

by Karen Farnen

    Some church members regularly contribute money to a religious organization and receive a federal income tax deduction in return. However, contributions of household goods or other items to a church can also reduce your federal income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service allows a tax deduction for material items if the church qualifies and you fulfill all other legal requirements.

    Qualifying Religious Organizations

    The IRS allows deductions only for money or goods you donate to qualifying tax-exempt churches or other charitable organizations. Ask your church whether it qualifies, or use the search engine on the IRS website (see Resources). The list on the search engine is not all-inclusive, however. You can also verify whether your church qualifies by calling the IRS at 877-829-5500, or use 800-829-4059 for text telephone.

    Deductible Amount

    You can deduct only the fair market value of any goods donated to a qualifying church, not the purchase price. The IRS defines this value as the price a buyer and seller would agree to if they made the sale freely with normal knowledge of the facts. If you receive some benefit from the donation personally, deduct your benefit from the value. The IRS limits all your charitable contributions for the tax year to 50 percent of adjusted gross income in most cases.

    Types of Goods

    Some types of items that may qualify for a deduction include clothing, electronics, vehicles, furniture, jewelry and real property. Usually clothing and household items must be at a minimum in "good used condition" to qualify. However, if the items are not in good condition but are worth more than $500, you can deduct them if you get a qualified appraisal. The IRS has additional rules that often require an appraisal of items such as vehicles, jewelry and real estate.

    Documentation

    If your contributions in cash and goods come to $250 or more, you need written proof. Get a receipt with the name of your church, a description of the property and a statement telling whether you received anything in return. Keep photos or purchase receipts to help back up your claim. The IRS usually requires an appraisal for an item worth more than $5,000.

    Filing Your Return

    You must itemize deductions and file using IRS Form 1040 to deduct contributions to your church. List your itemized deductions on line 17 of Schedule A. Transfer the total on line 29 of this schedule to line 40 of Form 1040. Complete IRS Form 8283 if all your contributions in goods for the tax year exceed $500, and include section B if you donated an item or items worth more than $5,000.

    Photo Credits

    • Form 1040 Tax Forms image by Viola Joyner from Fotolia.com

    About the Author

    Karen Farnen has been writing online since 2009. She has taught piano and English as a second language. Farnen has a Bachelor of Arts in French with a music minor from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science in education and a Master of Arts in French from California State University-Fullerton.

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