Can I Deduct GoFundMe Donations?

November 10, 2023 by Steve Banner, EA, MBA
Man holding a credit card near computer with money symbols

“Tell whoever it is that I already donated at the office!” When I was young, this would be my father’s immediate reaction when he heard an unexpected knock at the front door of our home in the sprawling suburbs. Although the identity of the individual door-knockers changed according to the season, It seemed that there was a steady stream of people throughout the year who would arrive on our doorstep seeking to raise money for one cause or another. During the Spring, I, too, joined the ranks of the door-knockers as I scoured the neighborhood, seeking to sell tickets to the annual fundraising raffle for my elementary school. Although times have changed, and knocking on the doors of strangers is not as safe as it used to be, the arrival of the internet has played an enormous role in all but eliminating door-to-door fundraising activities.

Electronic platforms, such as GoFundMe, have created safe and simple environments to raise money for one cause or another. For example, we sometimes read stories in the newspaper about a child with a rare and life-threatening disease that requires expensive treatment. In pre-internet days, sympathetic friends and neighbors might have held fund-raising events or gone door-knocking to help the parents pay for their child’s medical care. Meanwhile, other people who heard of the child’s plight would choose to send donations directly to the parents. But now, in the days of GoFundMe, we would find at the foot of the newspaper article that a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise, say, $50,000 to help with the child’s treatment. Potential benefactors would then be encouraged to send their donations electronically through the GoFundMe page that had been set up for the purpose.

While the effect of GoFundMe is to simplify and streamline the process of raising money through donations, there is one problem with the scenario we have just described – the donations are not tax-deductible to the donor. But even if the donations had been made in the old-fashioned way to a door-to-door solicitor carrying a tin for the “Help Susan Smith Fund,” they would still be non-deductible. The reason for this is that the tax law does not allow deductions made for the benefit of individuals. If the donations were made to the non-profit hospital where Susan is being treated, then they would likely be tax-deductible for the donor.

Just to clarify, charitable donations can be eligible for deductions if they are given to:

 

  • A religious organization
  • Federal, state, and local governments
  • Certain war veterans’ groups
  • Nonprofit schools and hospitals


On the other hand, charitable contributions would generally be non-deductible if they are given to:

 

  • Foreign organizations
  • Political parties, action committees (PACs) or fundraisers
  • Individuals
  • Foreign governments
  • For-profit schools or hospitals
  • Social and sports clubs
  • Labor unions
  • Homeowners’ associations

In other words, charitable donations can only be eligible for a tax deduction if the donations are made to a registered 501(c)(3) organization. The IRS has a list of these organizations on its website. In recognition of the changes in methods of donation, some of the larger charitable organizations have registered with GoFundMe, and thus, any donations you make using this method would potentially be eligible for deduction. To summarize, your GoFundMe donations can be deductible provided that they are being sent to the correct type of organization, and you can check on the IRS website if you have any doubts about the actual organization you are trying to help.

On a final note, if my father were still alive, he would be happy to know that his standard line to dismiss unwanted visitors would be much more believable today: “Tell ‘em I already donated online!”

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Steve Banner, EA, MBA
Tax Content Developer

 

Steve Banner began his career in the field of income tax in 1977 and has since gathered business experience in a variety of countries and cultures. In addition to the United States, he has lived and worked for extended periods in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Sweden. Along the way he studied Adult Education and earned a Bachelor of Education, Master of Educational Administration, and MBA. He joined TaxAudit in 2016, where he is a Tax Content Developer.


 

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