In this installment of Ask the Tax Expert, we cover when you can write off donations for hurricane relief. Our thoughts go out to everybody impacted by these recent storms.
Q.I have a relative who is a Hurricane Irma victim in Florida. If I give him money to help him and his family with their expenses, can I deduct the gift as a charitable contribution?
A. Unfortunately, the answer is no. You may never deduct a gift to a specific individual, even if that person is in need. Only contributions to what the IRS calls qualified organization are deductible. These consist mainly of public charities — organizations that come under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These are the myriad nonprofits that engage in charitable, religious, scientific, literary, or educational work. Thus, you may make a donation to a charity like the Red Cross, United Way, or a church and take a charitable deduction. But you get no deduction for helping a member of your family. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't provide such help anyway. If you're looking for a qualified charity to donate to, the IRS maintains a searchable list of qualified organizations on its website. Other organizations maintain even more extensive lists of charities. For example, GuideStar lists over 1.5 million charities.