You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. Most organizations, other than churches and governments, must apply to the IRS to become a qualified organization.
Generally, only the following types of organizations can be qualified organizations.
A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation organized or created in or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States (including Puerto Rico). It must, however, be organized and operated only for charitable, religious, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. Certain organizations that foster national or international amateur sports competition also qualify.
War veterans organizations, including posts, auxiliaries, trusts, or foundations, organized in the United States or any of its possessions (including Puerto Rico).
Domestic fraternal societies, orders, and associations operating under the lodge system. (Your contribution to this type of organization is deductible only if it is to be used solely for charitable, religious, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.)
Certain nonprofit cemetery companies or corporations. (Your contribution to this type of organization is not deductible if it can be used for the care of a specific lot or mausoleum crypt.)
The United States or any state, the District of Columbia, a U.S. possession (including Puerto Rico), a political subdivision of a state or U.S. possession, or an Indian tribal government or any of its subdivisions that perform substantial government functions. (Your contribution to this type of organization is deductible only if it is to be used solely for public purposes.)
Example 1. You contribute cash to your citys police department to be used as a reward for information about a crime. The city police department is a qualified organization, and your contribution is for a public purpose. You can deduct your contribution.
Example 2. You make a voluntary contribution to the social security trust fund, not earmarked for a specific account. Because the trust fund is part of the U.S. Government, you contributed to a qualified organization. You can deduct your contribution.
Churches, a convention or association of churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations.
Most nonprofit charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross and the United Way.
Most nonprofit educational organizations, including the Boy (and Girl) Scouts of America, colleges, and museums. This also includes nonprofit daycare centers that provide childcare to the general public if substantially all the childcare is provided to enable parents and guardians to be gainfully employed. However, if your contribution is a substitute for tuition or other enrollment fee, it is not deductible as a charitable contribution, as explained later under Contributions You Cannot Deduct .
Utility company emergency energy programs, if the utility company is an agent for a charitable organization that assists individuals with emergency energy needs.
Nonprofit organizations that develop and maintain public parks and recreation facilities.
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 of the property at the time of the contribution. See Contributions of Property , later.
Your deduction for charitable contributions generally cannot be more than 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but in some cases 20% and 30% limits may apply. See Limits on Deductions , later.
Table 1 in this publication gives examples of contributions you can and cannot deduct.
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