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Charitable Contributions

Supreme Court remarks shed light on donations to church.

The United States Supreme Court has remarked that a charitable contribution is in essence "a transfer of money or property [to a charity] … in excess of any benefit received in return."

Accordingly, a charitable contribution is deductible "only if and to the extent it exceeds the market value of the benefit received" and "only if the excess payment was made with the intention of making a gift."

Based on this language, a donor may deduct "contributions" to a church school attended by his or her child only to the extent that the contribution exceeds the fair market value of the child's tuition. Similarly, a "contribution" for which a donor receives a premium (e.g., a Bible, record, book) is deductible only to the extent it exceeds the value of the premium.

But what about contributions to a church? Could it not be argued that they are ...

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  • July 1, 1987