October 27, 2009

Benevolent Gift Rules Review

Question:

My church regularly gives financial help to individuals in need. Should the individual receiving financial help/charity from the church be issued any kind of Form 1099 from the church?

Answer:

IRS Publication 525 states that gifts to individuals not in the employ of the donor are non-taxable. This is true regardless whether the gifts are periodic or regular as long as no services are required (past, present or future) to receive the benevolence. I recommend that viewers of this blog type "Benevolence" in the above search window for much more on this subject.

Question:

Donations have been made to our church, and the donors requested that certain individuals then be given the same amount in charity from the church due to a perceived need (specifically, for people who have lost their jobs, but the specific individuals were named by the donors). The church told the donors that it would assume complete legal control over the donated funds, but the church has, in fact, been giving as much, or more, to the needy individuals as was donated by donors making such requests. Are these donations tax deductible as charitable donations for the donors?

Answer:

Generally, these type of gifts are deductible by the donor and non-taxable to the recipient. Again, type "Benevolence" in the above search window for much more on this subject.

Tax-exempt organizations that file Form 990 (most churches are excluded from this requirement) are familiar with IRS rules regarding donor advised funds. The Instructions to Schedule D of Form 990 define these funds:

"Generally a donor advised fund is a fund or account:
1. That is separately identified by reference to contributions of a donor or donors;
2. That is owned and controlled by a sponsoring organization; and
3. For which the donor or donor advisor has or reasonably expects to have advisory privileges in the distribution or investment of amounts held in the donor advised funds or accounts because of the donor's status as a donor" (Form 990 Schedule D Instructions).

The presence of this status does not deny tax-deductibility of donations but does merit the attention of the IRS since obvious abuse could occur. For this reason, in my blog entries I have persistently cautioned churches to be aware of potential abuses and to steer clear of them.

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