USA Today: “Emotions appeared to be sky high at the newly formed First Church of Cannabis after the Internal Revenue Service granted it nonprofit status. The designation means donors can deduct gifts to the church on their federal tax returns if they itemize and the church is eligible for a property-tax exemption in Indiana. The organization has raised $10,905 in a gofundme.com solicitation but has not found a home yet. “What a GLORIOUS DAY it is folks,” the founder and grand poohbah, Bill Levin, wrote May 26 in a Facebook post announcing the church’s IRS approval as 501 (c) (3) charitable organization.
Tucson News Now: “In Tucson a new organization has formed to serve women with HIV and AIDS. The nonprofit PowerSource Tucson, Inc. says it’s the only group of its kind in Arizona. . . . PowerSource Tucson says the stigma surrounding the disease means women tend to be more isolated, feeling alone and without support.”
New York Times: “There were subscriptions to dating websites, meals at Hooters and purchases at Victoria’s Secret — not to mention jet ski joy rides and couples’ cruises to the Caribbean. All of it was paid for with the nearly $200 million donated to cancer charities, and was enjoyed by the healthy friends and family members of those running the groups, in what government officials said Tuesday was one of the largest charity fraud cases ever. At the center of the operation was James T. Reynolds Sr., who opened the Cancer Fund of America in 1987. Over the decades, according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission and regulators from 50 states and the District of Columbia, he expanded the enterprise to four separate groups and was joined by his son, friends and members of his Mormon Church congregation in Knoxville, Tenn.”
The Internal Revenue Service today reminds individuals and businesses making year-end gifts to charity that several important tax law provisions have taken effect in recent years. Some of the changes taxpayers should keep in mind include:
Rules for Charitable Contributions of Clothing and Household Items
Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. Clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better to be tax-deductible. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return.
Donors must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all gifts worth $250 or more. It must include, among other things, a description of the items contributed.
Guidelines for Monetary Donations
A taxpayer must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity in order to deduct any donation of money, regardless of amount. The record must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, and bank, credit union and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.
Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
These requirements for the deduction of monetary donations do not change the long-standing requirement that a taxpayer obtain an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.
The IRS offers the following additional reminders to help taxpayers plan their holiday and year-end gifts to charity:
- Qualified charities. Check that the charity is eligible. Only donations to eligible organizations are tax-deductible. Select Check, a searchable online tool available on IRS.gov, lists most organizations that are eligible to receive deductible contributions. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations. That is true even if they are not listed in the tool’s database.
- Year-end gifts. Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2014 count for 2014, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2015. Also, checks count for 2014 as long as they are mailed in 2014.
- Itemize deductions. For individuals, only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. This deduction is not available to individuals who choose the standard deduction. This includes anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ). A taxpayer will have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Use the 2014 Form 1040 Schedule A to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.
- Record donations. For all donations of property, including clothing and household items, get from the charity, if possible, a receipt that includes the name of the charity, date of the contribution, and a reasonably-detailed description of the donated property. If a donation is left at a charity’s unattended drop site, keep a written record of the donation that includes this information, as well as the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation and the method used to determine that value. Additional rules apply for a contribution of $250 or more.
- Special Rules. The deduction for a car, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C or a similar statement, must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor’s tax return.
If the amount of a taxpayer’s deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 must be submitted with the tax return.
IRS.gov has additional information on charitable giving, including:
Question: My group is considering forming a tax-exempt charitable organization. Can the organization be a limited liability company or must it be a nonprofit corporation?
Answer: It can be an LLC if the LLC is owned only by Section 501(c)(3) organizations or governmental units or wholly owned instrumentalities of a state or political subdivision thereof and the LLC satisfies the 12 conditions described in an IRS paper called “Limited Liability Companies as Exempt Organization Update.” The LLC cannot have individuals or nonexempt organizations as members, and its organizing documents must contain certain language required by the IRS. The 12 conditions are:
1. The organizational documents must include a specific statement limiting the LLC’s activities to one or more exempt purposes.
2. The organizational language must specify that the LLC is operated exclusively to further the charitable purposes of its members.
3. The organizational language must require that the LLC’s members be section 501(c)(3) organizations or governmental units or wholly owned instrumentalities of a state or political subdivision thereof (“governmental units or instrumentalities”).
4. The organizational language must prohibit any direct or indirect transfer of any membership interest in the LLC to a transferee other than a section 501(c)(3) organization or governmental unit or instrumentality.
5. The organizational language must state that the LLC, interests in the LLC (other than a membership interest), or its assets may only be availed of or transferred to (whether directly or indirectly) any nonmember other than a section 501(c)(3) organization or governmental unit or instrumentality in exchange for fair market value.
6. The organizational language must guarantee that upon dissolution of the LLC, the assets devoted to the LLC’s charitable purposes will continue to be devoted to charitable purposes.
7. The organizational language must require that any amendments to the LLC’s articles of organization and operating agreement be consistent with section 501(c)(3).
8. The organizational language must prohibit the LLC from merging with, or converting into, a for -profit entity.
9. The organizational language must require that the LLC not distribute any assets to members who cease to be organizations described in section 501(c)(3) or governmental units or instrumentalities.
10. The organizational language must contain an acceptable contingency plan in the event one or more members ceases at any time to be an organization described in section 501(c)(3) or a governmental unit or instrumentality.
11. The organizational language must state that the LLC’s exempt members will expeditiously and vigorously enforce all of their rights in the LLC and will pursue all legal and equitable remedies to protect their interests in the LLC.
12. The LLC must represent that all its organizing document provisions are consistent with state LLC laws, and are enforceable at law and in equity.
During its existence, a public charity has numerous interactions with the IRS – from filing an application for recognition of tax-exempt status, to filing the required annual information returns, to making changes in its mission and purpose. The IRS provides information, explanations, guides, forms and publications on all of these subjects – they are available through this IRS Web site. The illustration below provides an easy-to-use way of linking to the documents most charities will need as they proceed though the phases of their “life cycle.”
In addition to the following illustration, you can also download a graphical depiction of the life cycle, which includes functioning links back to our site.
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