Are Church Donations Tax Deductible?
If you attend church regularly, you have likely heard of tithes and offerings or seen an offering plate being passed.
Tithes are contributions you can make to support your church, house of worship, or religious organization. Cash contributions are the most common, but people donate stock, real estate, and other property to churches.
You might have also heard that you can take a tax deduction for donations made to churches, charities, and other religious or charitable institutions. The IRS does allow you to deduct charitable contributions to qualified organizations such as churches from your taxes. However, there are rules, procedures, tax deduction limits, and record-keeping requirements before deducting your tithes from your personal taxes.
A tithe is a percentage of your income donated to your church. The word tithe means tenth in Hebrew, so the biblical custom of tithing is generally 10%. Any amount given to your church constitutes a charitable donation according to the IRS, whether it is precisely 10% of your earnings or not.
Tithing is a way to give back to God for what He has given you. When you tithe or make a church offering, you are supporting the church. Your church determines how to use offerings. They can use the money to support the needs of the church or the people of your community.
What Is a Tax Deduction?
A tax deduction is an expense or cost you can subtract from your taxable income. Tax deductions lower the amount of income taxes you owe by reducing your taxable income. You can use the standard deduction, which is a fixed amount, or itemize your deductions on Schedule A of your income tax return.
IRS Rules for Church Donations
If your church operates exclusively for religious and educational purposes and has obtained 501(c)(3) status as a charitable organization, your donation qualifies as tax-deductible. You can check the tax-exempt status of a church, religious institution, or charity using the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on the Internal Revenue Service website.
The IRS has record-keeping and documentation requirements for those claiming tax-deductible donations, including church tithes. Whenever you make a cash donation, keep your donation receipts, bank statements, credit card statements, or any records that show the charitable donation.
Cash contributions over $250 require more documentation if you claim a tax deduction. You’ll need written proof from your church stating the dollar amount given, whether you received a benefit in return for the charitable donation, and a description and estimate of the fair market value of the goods or services you received, if any.
Deducting Tithes on Taxes
Tithing and one-time donations to qualified organizations such as churches are tax-deductible. To deduct the money you tithe, you can itemize deductions on form 1040, schedule A.
To claim a tithing tax deduction for donations made by cash, check, electronic means, debit card, credit card, or payroll deduction, verify your tithing donation amount with one of the following:
- Some form of bank record. Bank records could include canceled checks, credit card or bank statements, or receipts for electronic funds transfers.
- For gifts over $250, written acknowledgment from the church that shows the church’s name, the amount of your church donation, the date of your contribution, and any goods or services you received as a result of your gift.
Report your tithing on Schedule A of your income tax return. You don’t need to send bank statements or other proof to the IRS with your personal tax returns. If the agency requests confirmation of your donations, you must produce the proper documentation.
The CARES Act and Your Church Donation
Before the 2020 tax year, tithing has only been tax-deductible for those who itemize deductions. The CARES Act changed that for the 2020 and 2021 tax years.
Single people and individual filers can claim a charitable deduction for gifts to charity of up to $300. Married couples filing jointly get up to a $600 charitable contribution deduction. The CARES Act makes this tax break available even if you claim the standard deduction and don’t itemize.
How Much You Can Claim for Church Contributions
Contributions to charities, churches, and other qualified organizations are subject to tax deduction limits. The contribution limit is 100% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for qualified cash donations for the tax years 2020 and 2021.
Prior to 2020, donors were only allowed to deduct up to 60% of their adjusted gross incomes (AGI) for church tithes and cash donations to qualified charities.
How Much Can You Claim in Charitable Donations Without Receipts?
You don’t necessarily need a receipt, but you need proof of your charitable donations if you claim a tax deduction. Any cash donation requires a bank record or something in writing from the qualified organization showing the organization’s name and the date and amount of money you gave.
For any contribution of $250 or more, you must have written acknowledgment from the qualified organization. The acknowledgment must state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift and give a good faith estimate of the value.
Is It Wrong To Claim My Tithe on My Taxes?
It is not wrong to claim a tax deduction for tithing on your taxes. While some may have religious objections, Claiming your tithe on your taxes does not diminish your gift to your church or service to God in any way. Your tax payments are subject to IRS rules. Tithes are considered deductible donations under those same rules.
Tithing is a personal matter. You don’t have to claim a tax break for your church tithes or deductible donations if you have religious objections.
Whether claiming your tithes provides a tax benefit depends on the sum of your itemized deductions compared to the standard deduction. The standard deduction amount varies based on your filing status, for example, single or married filing jointly. Itemized deductions only reduce your taxes if the total of all your itemized deductions is greater than the standard deduction.