Last week the IRS announced a special tax option for taxpayers who make cash contributions to certain charitable organizations. The Slain Officer Family Support Act of 2015 applies to taxpayers making contributions to organizations providing relief to the families of the two New York City police officers shot and killed on December 20, 2014 while on patrol. The option is somewhat limited, but is certainly interesting. (Historically, a similar option has been enacted a few other times, including for contributions to support relief of the tsunami in India in 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2009.)
For cash contributions made between January 1, 2015 and April 15, 2015, taxpayers have the option of taking the charitable deduction in tax year 2014 (the normal rule) or taking what the IRS is deeming an "immediate" benefit and deducting the contribution in tax year 2015. Of course, if you take the deduction in tax year 2014, you cannot take a deduction in 2015 (even though you technically made the payment in 2015). Also, any contributions made in 2014 can only be deducted in 2014, and any contributions made after April 15, 2015 can only be deducted in 2015.
The "limits" on the use of this special rule are:
- The rule only applies to contributions made in a 3 1/2 month time frame (January through April 15).
- The option does not apply to contributions of property. The IRS has described the rule as only applying to "cash" contributions, but cash in this sense essentially means not property. Contributions made by check, debit card, credit card, electronic funds transfer, or text message are considered "cash" contributions for this special rule.
- This is only useful for individuals who itemize deductions using Schedule A. (This limit is generally applicable for all charitable contributions.)
- Contributions must be made to organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible donations. Contributions made directly to the families do not qualify. (Again, this limit is generally applicable to all charitable contributions. You can use the IRS online database to check for a particular organization.)
Though the special deduction rules are somewhat limited, it does provide some flexibility for those who have not filed yet for 2014, or those who desire to amend their 2014 return to take advantage of this special deduction.