Chimpanzees and Charity


For Disneynature’s newest movie, Chimpanzee, filmmakers spent four years embedded in the lush rainforest of Ivory Coast’s Tai National Park. The movie follows the life of Oscar, a predictably adorable young chimp. Oscar learns how to use rocks to open nuts (apparently harder than it looks) and how to use sticks to go “fishing” for army ants (a real delicacy to chimpanzee foodies). There’s a turf war with a rival community for control over a valuable nut grove, and, this being a Disney movie, Oscar loses his mother to a leopard around the beginning of the third reel. Losing his mother poses a real threat to Oscar’s life until, remarkably, he's “adopted” by Freddy, the community’s alpha male. The film is narrated by Tim Allen.

Disney has announced that they are donating a portion of Chimpanzee’s opening–weekend ticket sales to the Jane Goodall Institute for the “See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzee” program to protect habitats. Disney will donate 20 cents for every ticket sold, with a minimum donation of $100,000. So – and here at last we come to the tax question of the day – does that mean that if you are one of the first to see it, you can deduct part of your ticket? Unfortunately no, although Disneynature can certainly deduct the contribution on its return. It’s like buying a ticket to a college football game. The college itself may be a not–for–profit organization, but buying a ticket isn’t a “donation” because you get something of value in exchange (though some colleges let you make donations in exchange for the right to buy season tickets – in those cases, the IRS treats that “right” as being worth 20% of the donation amount and lets you deduct the remaining 80%).

Deductions for charitable contributions are a mainstay of the tax code. Ideally, charitable contributions let you do well for society while you do well for yourself. They can be tricky to navigate on your tax return, and there are many rules about what you can and cannot deduct. Make sure you are following the guidelines for charitable contributions – and getting the most bang for your donated buck. Most especially, keep good records and keep your donation receipts, as the IRS often targets charitable deductions during audits!