Today TaxMama hears from Elisa in Santa Clara, California who is doing something brave. “I am involved with groups and individuals who feed and Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) feral cat colonies. The cats live outdoors and are not owned by the feeders. Some people are part of non-profit groups but many are individuals. For the individuals, can they deduct cat food and spay/neuter costs as charitable contributions? For the groups, if their members buy and use the food for colonies, what records do the groups need?”
Robert Bloemeke one of TaxMama’s students in Japan replies to Elisa.
Unfortunately, no charitable expenses incurred by an individual, on his own, are deductible. The only deductions allowed are donations made to a “qualified organization”, or out-of-pocket expenses incurred while doing volunteer work for a “qualified organization”.
Even such out-of-pocket expenses are restricted to those that are incurred ONLY because of services rendered. Travel expenses, or uniforms, or safety equipment, for example, would qualify, but cat food expense would not.
Also, there is a difference between a “non-profit” (i.e., tax-exempt) organization, and a “qualified organization for purposes of charitable deductions”. “Non-profit” only means that the organization does not have to pay taxes on its income. Now, whether a donation made to such an organization is deductible, is another question entirely. For example, a political organization may be non-profit, but donations made to political organizations are never tax-deductible.
So how can you tell if the organization is “qualified” for tax-deductible contributions? Simple! Just ask them! Or better yet, call the IRS at 1-877-829-5500. They can tell you instantly whether any organization qualifies for tax-deductible contributions. Or look them up online – you can find a Feral Cat society in your own community. http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html
TaxMama adds the costs should be deductible if you submit them to the organization and get receipts. Keep records – date and time of purchase, the receipt itself, and a log of where you picked up the cats, what you did for them (spay, neuter, return, feed, vet, etc.) – and submit the receipts to the organization at least once every few months – and definitely before the end of the year. To deduct the cost of the food, consider donating the money to your organization for a cat food fund. Then, have members draw food from the organization’s inventory.
And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about volunteering deductions and other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At TaxMama.com.[Note: If you were subscribed to the e-mailed TaxQuips, you’d be getting other exciting news and tips by e-mail, that never appear on the site. Please click on the join TaxMama.com link – it’s free!]
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