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25 Days of Giving: What the Personal Benefit Transfer Means for Charitable Contributions

Thanks for the reading the 25 Days of Giving series! Each day through December 25, I’m covering different aspects of charitable giving for both donors and nonprofit leaders. Have a topic you want covered or question you want answered  regarding charitable giving? Contact me.

The vast majority of public and private universities and colleges are tax-exempt entities as defined by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3) because of their educational purposes and/or the fact that they are state governmental entities. If this is the case, gave you ever wondered why tuition for a student to attend a university is not deductible as a charitable contribution? This is known in gift law as as a “personal benefit” transfer. The personal benefit of education for the student is equal to the tuition paid. Because of the benefit value, there is no charitable gift and therefore no federal income tax charitable contribution deduction.

university library

Another example of personal benefit transfer would be payment to a charity for specific services, and such payments are not deductible. In Hernandez v. Commissionerthe U.S. Supreme Court determined gifts of fixed amounts to the Church of Scientology (a tax-exempt religious organization) in exchange for personal counseling were not deductible. The Court held that such “gifts” were more appropriately considered payments for services rather than charitable contributions.

If you ever have a question if a charitable gift is tax deductible, don’t hesitate to contact me. It never hurts to get a second opinion on potential personal benefit situations, especially if the opinion can mean potentially avoiding an IRS audit.

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