Are Donations to Colleges Tax Deductible?

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If you're feeling charitable toward a college, you may derive some tax benefits from your donations. The Internal Revenue Service allows you to claim deductions for contributions to qualified organizations, including charities and non-profits. As far as colleges are concerned, the key phrase in this calculation is "non-profit."


The Basics of Qualified Charitable Contributions

A college, or any other educational institution, can accept deductible contributions only if it is organized on a non-profit basis and has been qualified as such by the IRS. A for-profit technical college, for example, would not normally qualify, and you may not deduct any contributions to that institution from your income for tax purposes. Contact the institution directly if you have any questions on the deduction of contributions. The IRS also provides an online Exempt Organizations Select Check that allows you to verify that your donation will qualify.


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Deduction of Donations to Affiliated Groups

Charitable organizations administered or overseen by the college also may qualify for a deduction. Yale University, for example, can accept deductible contributions, as can the Yale Broadcasting Corporation, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Yale Alumni Publications and dozens of other charitable and non-profit groups organized by the university's students, faculty, administrators and alumni. The IRS also allows you to deduct contributions to qualified alumni clubs, but only to the extent that the contribution exceeds the value of any gifts received. If you receive the right to buy game tickets in return for a contribution to a college's athletic booster club, for example, the IRS only allows you to deduct 80 percent of the contribution amount over and above that value.


Non-Qualified Recipients of Charitable Contributions

The IRS does not allow the deduction of funds used for an individual's tuition or expenses as a charitable contribution. The money has to go to the college itself, and not for the benefit of an individual or a for-profit, non-qualified group within the college. The IRS does allow the deduction of some educational expenses under other circumstances, but not as charitable contributions. Any payment required as a condition of attendance, even if the college calls it a "donation," won't qualify.


Non-Monetary Contributions

You can donate non-monetary gifts to a college and claim them as charitable contributions under certain condition and limitations. This category includes vehicles, furniture, electronics, appliances, property and patents. The IRS requires that you calculate the contribution based on the "fair market value" of the donation, and requires an appraisal if the property is valued above a specified amount. There is some recordkeeping involved whenever you intend to claim a donation of valuable property to a college or any other qualified group; consult with the recipient or with the IRS directly on the rules.