15 Feel-Good Tax Deductions You Can Get By Giving Back

SAVING & SPENDING - TAXES
Learn about the financial benefits you can enjoy through helping others.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Charitable acts allow us to make a positive impact on society and improve the lives of others. It's also a way to pay it forward, passing on the generosity and kindness we may have received in our times of need.

Once you've given back, you may find that your generosity leads to significant tax savings, allowing you to keep more money in your bank account.

Let’s take a closer look at the tax deductions you can take by giving back.

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Charitable contribution deduction

zimmytws/Adobe charitable giving note on banknotes

When donating cash to a qualified organization, you can typically deduct up to 60% of your adjusted gross income.

If you contribute under $250, you must provide a bank statement or written acknowledgment from the organization. 

However, a bank statement isn’t enough for cash donations over $250; you’ll need something in writing from the charity with the date and gift amount.

Local donations

alisaaa/Adobe young volunteers donating food packs

Giving locally allows you to see the direct impact of your contributions. Seeing the results of your donations positively affecting your community can provide a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Donations to local charities and qualified nonprofit organizations are often tax-deductible. Make sure to keep detailed records of your contributions, such as receipts.

Charitable mileage

Александр Бочкала/Adobe ukrainian refugee packing luggage in trunk

Unfortunately, you can't claim your time as a tax deduction when volunteering for charitable organizations. However, you can write off travel expenses or mileage on your personal vehicle you use performing services for charity.

The expenses must be for a qualifying charitable organization and can't include significant travel for personal reasons.

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Volunteer expenses

Dragana Gordic/Adobe multi ethnic volunteers preparing donation boxes

Along with travel expenses, you can also write off any other out-of-pocket expenses you incur while volunteering. For example, if you pay for supplies, advertising, or postage for a charity, you can usually deduct them from your taxes.

You may even be able to write off travel expenses related to your volunteer work, including lodging costs and meals.

Qualified charitable distributions

mtrlin/Adobe female volunteer preparing food donation boxes

If you're 70 1/2 or older, you can start making qualified charitable distributions (QCD).

A QCD lets you donate money directly from your IRA to a qualified charity. Usually, transfers from an IRA are taxable; however, you can give up to $100,000 each year to charity tax-free with QCDs.

QCDs can also help you meet your required minimum distribution for the year.

Appreciated assets

tashatuvango/Adobe folder labelled as asset in drawer

Donating appreciated assets, such as stock, bonds, or real estate, can provide significant tax benefits.

When you donate assets that have appreciated, you can typically avoid paying capital gains tax. You can also claim a deduction for the full fair market value of the asset when you donate it, which can reduce your taxable income.

Donation centers

Syda Productions/Adobe african american female volunteer making donation

You can give items you no longer use to donation centers like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Some items may include clothing, household goods, or vehicles in good, usable condition.

A professional appraiser can help determine fair market value for high-value items. Don’t forget to ask for a receipt to document your donations!

Charitable contributions of inventory

Halfpoint/Adobe volunteers working in charity donation center

Businesses can donate surplus inventory to qualified tax-exempt organizations, such as charities, schools, or religious organizations.

You can donate merchandise, office supplies, equipment, and more; however, food inventory is subject to special rules, such as quality and limits to who can eat it.

These donations can reduce waste, provide tax benefits, and showcase the business’ commitment to social responsibility.

Environmental causes

tashechka/Adobe male volunteer picking garbage on beach

The IRS will also give you tax breaks for donating to organizations that help preserve the environment. You can contribute to many environmental causes, including climate change mitigation, sustainable agriculture, and air and water quality safeguarding.

If you upgrade your home’s energy efficiency, you may also reap some tax incentives. However, these incentives change frequently, so research guidelines before claiming the deductions.

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Charitable remainder trusts

Halfpoint/Adobe volunteers sorting clothes in donation center

Charitable remainder trusts (CRT) allow you to donate to causes you care about while drawing an annual income. Transferred assets to a CRT helps you defer income taxes and may give you a partial charitable deduction.

You can name a beneficiary for the trust to receive the payments for the term. Once the payment term ends, the remainder of the CRT goes to your chosen qualified charity.

Local recreation

XaMaps/Adobe saudi children playing football in street

Donating to local entertainment, such as sports teams, the arts, and community centers, is a great way to support your community's cultural and recreational activities.

Make sure to choose organizations that are registered non-profits so your donations are eligible for tax deductions. If you receive any perks from the organizations, such as free tickets, you’ll need to subtract the value from your write-off.

Conservation easement contributions

Rawpixel.com/Adobe volunteers planting trees together

The purpose of conservation easement contributions is to preserve open land, historic structures, and natural habitats.

Taxpayers can donate all or part of their property to the government or a qualified charitable organization for conservation purposes and claim the donation as a tax deduction.

Conservation contributions for individuals can’t exceed 50% of their income within a tax year. However, farmers and ranchers can contribute up to 100% of their income.

Research and development tax credit

Lustre/Adobe engineers working on project together

You don’t need to be a scientist or researcher to earn the research and development (R&D;) tax credit. If you have a small business, you may qualify by simply endeavoring to improve a product or process in the United States.

Sitting down with a tax professional may be worthwhile to discover how your startup could earn the R&D tax credit.

Care for elderly parents

Rido/Adobe happy grand mother with grand daughter

You may be able to deduct expenses for your elderly parents' care, such as prescriptions, medical equipment, nursing home costs, and dental care.

Your parent(s) generally must qualify as a dependent to claim expenses. This means they must meet specific criteria, such as receiving at least half of their support from you and earning a gross income below a certain threshold.

Qualified disaster relief contributions

burnstuff2003/Adobe Earthquake damage

Contributions to those affected by floods, hurricanes, or other disasters are tax-deductible when made to a qualified organization. These charities can bring food, clothing, shelter, and more to ensure the disaster victims’ basic needs are met.

However, for your donations to be tax-deductible, you can’t earmark your contribution for a specific individual or family.

Bottom line

fizkes/Adobe happy woman calculating bills at home

Giving back can positively impact the lives of others, your community, and the world. It can also help you get ahead financially by reducing your taxable income.

Before donating to a charity, thoroughly research the organization to ensure your contribution is tax deductible and actually goes to the cause.

By making charitable donations a part of your financial plan, you're not only supporting important philanthropic organizations but also optimizing your tax strategy.

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Author Details

Carley Clark Carley Clark is a personal finance writer from Michigan. She graduated from Spring Arbor University with a bachelor's degree in business. After graduation, she worked in finance as a revenue auditor at a casino. Carley strives to write informative content that will help readers meet their financial goals.

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