Food Donation Tax Deduction: Yes or No?

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If you donate to a canned goods drive or other food drive, you may be eligible to claim a tax deduction.

Generally, you can claim an itemized deduction when you donate cash or items to a qualifying non-profit organization. If you donate a lot, you may need to be aware of the charitable contribution limits, but those don’t usually apply unless you’re donating more than half of your income.

When you donate food, your potential deduction amount is the value of the food. That’s usually what you paid for it in the store. For example, if you donate 10 $1 cans, your deduction is $10.

While that deduction might seem small, if you make a lot of small donations during the year, they can all add up to one much larger donation.

What You Need to Claim Your Food Donation Tax Deduction

To claim a deduction for donating food, you generally need two things.

The first is a receipt showing how much you originally paid for the food. No shopping at the dented can store and trying to claim Whole Foods prices.

The second thing you need is a receipt from the charitable organization. This usually isn’t a problem since they’re used to giving receipts for donations.

However, with most food drives, you may not be donating directly to the charitable organization. That means you might not get a receipt and might not qualify for the deduction.

For example, your office might do a food drive and then deliver all the collected food to the charity. You can’t get a receipt from your office since it isn’t a non-profit organization. Your office may also not track individual donations so employees can get a receipt for what they gave.

Most people will decide that the small potential deduction for a few cans of food isn’t worth it and not bother with trying to get receipts. If you want to make a larger donation and take a tax deduction, it’s usually best to donate directly to a food bank or other organization that can give you a receipt.

Additionally, many organizations now say that they prefer cash donations instead of food so that they can get exactly what they need at cheaper wholesale prices than you pay at the grocery store.

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