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Per IRS Publication 526 Charitable Contribution:

A charitable contribution is a donation or gift to, or for the use of, a qualified organization. It is voluntary and is made without getting, or expecting to get, anything of equal value (page 1).

Generally, you can deduct contributions of money or property you make to, or for the use of, a qualified organization. A contribution is "for the use of" a qualified organization when it is held in a legally enforceable trust for the qualified organization or in a similar legal arrangement. The contributions must be made to a qualified organization and not set aside for use by a specific person.

Examples of Deductible Charitable Contributions:

  • Money or property you give to;
    • Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other religious organizations
    • Federal, state, and local governments, if your contribution is solely for public purposes (for example, a gift to reduce the public debt)
    • Nonprofit schools and hospitals
    • Public parks and recreation facilities
    • The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, CARE, Goodwill Industries, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, etc.
    • War veterans’ groups
  • Expenses paid for a student living with you, sponsored by a qualified organization
  • Out-of-pocket expenses when you serve a qualified organization as a volunteer (page 3).

Per IRS Publication 526 Charitable Contributions:

Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions

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.

How to check whether an organization can receive deductible charitable contributions. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization, and most will be able to tell you. You also can check by going to IRS.gov/TEOS. This online tool will enable you to search for qualified organizations (page 2).

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