Can I Use My Church Donation as a Tax Deduction?

As tax season rolls around, take a look back at the previous year, and add up the amounts you donated to your church.  Is it enough to count?  And if it is, how much of it counts?

If you take the standard deduction, you cannot count additional charity. The amount is based on an assumption of averages—average housing cost, charitable giving, medical, and other costs. If you think you have higher than average amounts of any of those, then fill out Schedule A and compare it to the standard deduction. Your tax advisor, or a good tax software program, can tell you what to include.

Charitable donations to a church can be deducted. If possible, get a statement from your church that you received nothing but intangible religious benefits in exchange.  If you are aided by the church charity program, does it matter?  It depends on the way the aid is given.  If you buy a basket of groceries at a reduced price from a church co-op, it is a purchase, but the amount of discount does not go against other donations you made. You can write off the difference in value if you buy a cake for $1000 and you could get it at a bakery for $20, but the proof is up to you.  Charity given freely to you does not usually count against your donation deduction.

If you put a few dollars in the basket as it goes around, you have no record of the transaction. If you want to count it as a tax deduction, write a check ahead of time and put the check in the basket.  Keep a record of your checking account; your bank statement does not always show to whom you wrote the checks.  There is also a limit to how much of your income you can donate to charity. If you donate too much, the IRS wonders what you live on. Do not worry too much about an audit if you are honest, keep records of everything, and have a good advisor to make sure you are following tax law.