Charitable giving during the holiday season this year takes on a new, happier meaning when it comes to tax deductions.
Typically, most people aren't able to get a tax break when they donate money to a charity if they're claiming the standard deduction on their federal income tax returns. And nearly nine out of 10 taxpayers are taking that standard deduction these days.
Yet pandemic relief in Congress created a special but temporary break for giving money to a qualified charity that applies to people who do not itemize.
A married couple taking the standard deduction is allowed to claim up to $600 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities in 2021, if filing a joint return. It's a temporary break, which is set to expire on Jan. 1.
A single individual, including married individuals filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions.
If some of this sounds familiar, it is, somewhat.
On 2020 federal income tax returns, cash donations of up to $300 made to qualifying organizations were treated as deductible for those who didn't itemize.
"The difference this year: Those who file married filing jointly are allowed a direct deduction of up to a combined total of $600," said Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, the national tax preparation chain.
Why giving in December makes sense
Such news can give you an extra incentive to stop shopping for some not-so-perfect gifts and instead opt to donate money to a charity that has a special meaning for a special someone on your gift list.