Ask the taxgirl: Educational Classes Through the PTA

Taxpayer asks:

The PTA 501(c)(3) at my son’s local public elementary school sponsors a language and a chess class. Is the tuition we paid for these classes considered a charitable contribution?

Taxgirl says:

Probably not. You generally can’t deduct the cost that you pay for goods or services provided by a charitable organization.

There is a but. If the charitable organization provides a breakdown of the cost and breaks out the difference between the fair market value of the goods or services received from the cost of any donation, you can take a deduction for the donation.

Here’s an example: You pay $500 for a dinner sponsored by PETA. The FMV of the dinner is $50. The overage, or $450, is a donation.

Another example: You join an educational society and pay $50 in membership dues. In exchange, you receive a subscription to the society’s newsletter. The FMV of the newsletter is $15. The overage, or $35, is a donation.

But – and this is sooo important – get it in writing. Most charitable organizations will put the split into a letter; the portion of your contribution which qualifies as a donation will be separately stated. If they don’t offer one, insist on it.

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

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