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Benevolent Offerings for Specific Families

Question:

If a church solicits a benevolent offering for a specific family is the benevolent gift taxable to the recipient? Are the contributions tax deductible by the donors? For example, a church family experiences an uninsured fire, and fellow members respond in generosity.

Answer:

Gifts are excludable from taxable income if they are not compensation for services performed. A gift “proceeds from a ‘detached and disinterested generosity,’ ... ‘out of affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses’” (Commissioner v. Duberstein, 363 U.S. 278, 285 (1960)). But if the payments received come from a “the constraining force of any moral or legal duty” the income cannot be considered a gift (Commissioner v. Duberstein, 363 U.S. 278, 285 (1960)). Therefore truly benevolent gifts are not taxable to the recipient. 

The tax deductibility of a gift by a donor to a fund collected on behalf of a family is dependent on the fact and circumstances of each case. The deductibility lies in the control of the monies and purpose of the organization.  According to Richard R. Hammar in his book 2015 Church and Clergy Tax Guide, “If a donor stipulates that a contribution be spent on a designated individual, no deduction ordinarily is allowed unless the church exercises full administrative control over the donated funds to ensure that they are being spent in furtherance of the church’s exempt purposes” (p. 384-385). 

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