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What Should You Do about Charitable Giving?

Charitable giving is encouraged by the IRS, but there are limitations to what you can deduct from your taxes for this act of generosity.

Tax law encourages individuals and businesses to make donations to charity. Most contributions of cash and property are deductible, but there are limits to consider. Here are some points to keep in mind:


  • Contributions are deductible only by those who itemize deductions.
  • For those eligible to deduct contributions, there are limits based on adjusted gross income (AGI). Cash contributions are deductible up to 50% of AGI. Contributions of long-term capital gain property are deductible up to 30% (with a special election that can increase the limit to 50%). Contributions in excess of these amounts may be carried forward (for up to five years) and deducted in a future year.
  • Long-term capital gain property is deductible at its fair market value. By making a donation of such property, an individual benefits from the appreciation in value without having to pay any capital gains tax.


  • Corporations: C corporations can deduct contributions up to 10% of their taxable income. They can also claim enhanced deductions for donations of inventory donated to public charities, scientific property used for research donated to higher education institutions, and computer equipment donated to grades K-12.
  • Other businesses: Contribution amounts pass through to owners and are deductible to the extent of the individual's limits explained above.


All taxpayers must satisfy substantiation requirements

For gifts of $250 or more, a deduction is allowed only if the donor receives a statement from the charity listing the contribution and stating whether any goods or services were received in exchange.

For property donations valued at more than $500, Form 8283 must be filed and certain appraisal requirements must be met.

For more information about charitable contribution deductions, see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions and IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.

Copyright 1998-2000 Inc. All rights reserved.

Last updated: Apr 1, 1999


Barbara Weltman is an attorney and a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is the author with such titles as J.K. Lasser?s Small Business Taxes and Smooth Failing, and she contributes regularly to American Express OPEN and Her articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News and World Report. Weltman is also the publisher of Idea of the Day and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business at and hosts radio shows and podcasts, including Build Your Business radio. She has been named one of the 100 Small Business Influencers in the U.S. for the third year in a row.

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