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Wondering About Tax Deductions for Political Contributions? Here’s the Lowdown

September 19, 2016

With election season in full swing, you may be wondering, “Are political contributions tax deductible?” Here’s the lowdown:

Whether it’s your county mayor or the future President of the United States, the rules on taking advantage of tax deductions for political contributions are the same: Donations are deductible if the organization you give to is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity. This means that the organization you give to must have tax-exempt status, which is a special designation obtained from the IRS, in order for you to claim a tax deduction.

Many political organizations are automatically disqualified from this status. For example:

  • Any donation to a political party, campaign, or action committee is non-deductible.

  • Other non-deductible contributions are those to individual people, labor unions, business associations, for-profit schools, for-profit hospitals, foreign governments, and fees paid to associations or state or municipal governments.

Despite these rules, you can still reap the benefits of a tax deduction if you support 501(c)(3) tax-exempt political organizations that are non-partisan, in compliance with IRS guidelines on charitable contributions. Such organizations are allowed to communicate with politicians to ask them to make an issue a priority and educate them about why they should do so.

The bottom line: While you can’t make a tax-deductible donation directly to a candidate or campaign, you can make a tax-deductible donation to an organization that lobbies candidates about issues that are important to you. Just remember that in order to reap the benefits of a tax-deductible contribution, you’ll need to itemize the deductions on your tax return.

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