Holiday Gift Giving and Tax Deductions

For many people, the cost of holiday gift giving adds up fast. Whether you give generously or simply feel compelled to reciprocate, many wonder if there is a way to save on taxes as a result of all of this spending.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the new video game you buy for your child or the gift card you purchase for your parents, no tax deduction is available.

charitable contributions

charitable contributions

Charitable Donations Can Be Tax Deductible

On the other hand, when you give to charitable organizations, a tax deduction might be available.  As long as your gifts are given to 501(c)(3) organizations, charitable donations to them are deductible to the extent the value you give exceeds the value you receive.

A couple of examples will help explain.

Example 1:  If you donate a check for $100 to your church as part of a fundraiser and, in exchange, receive a ticket to a dinner with a value of $30, your charitable donation is $70. ($100 value donated less $30 value received).

Example 2: If you give clothes that cost you $500 to an organization, such as Goodwill Industries, that are worth $100 at the time of the donation, your potential tax deduction is $100.

Don’t worry about trying to figure this out.  TurboTax ask you simple questions about your donations and helps you figure out your tax deductions.  In addition, you can use ItsDeductible to value and track your donations.

Business Gifts and Tax Deductions

Run a small business? If you give gifts to business associates, you can deduct part of the cost of that gift.  That’s true even though the associate is likely another person or company – not a 501(c)3 organization.  Furthermore, you can give and deduct as many business gifts as you like. However, the amount of the tax deduction is limited to only $25 per gift recipient per year.  So, if you give five $50 gifts to five different people, your total tax deduction is $125 (5 different individuals multiplied by the $25 maximum per recipient.)

Are Gifts You Receive Taxable?

While it may seem like the government taxes everything, gifts you receive are not taxable.  So enjoy the rare tax-free income.

Michael Rubin

Author of the bestseller Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, and the upcoming The Savings Solution, Michael B. Rubin is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. In addition to his experience providing sophisticated financial advice to affluent clients, Michael has been a key source of information for over a decade to countless others. He speaks passionately about and provides guidance on virtually all personal financial planning topics. Michael has appeared in various media, including radio and TV stations across the country, plus national media such as CNN,, The Wall Street Journal,, Chicago Tribune, Financial Advisor Magazine, and Investment News. Prior to founding Total Candor LLC, Michael worked in the personal financial services practices of two of the former "Big Six" accounting firms. Subsequently working for several years as a new venture executive for Toys "R" Us, Inc., he made sure that he never actually grew up. He holds an undergraduate business degree from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Michael lives in New Hampshire with his wife and children.

Comments (3) Leave your comment

  1. Our daughter lost her business last year and it took several months to find another, in the meantime we were giving her money to keep her house and two children in school including
    the expense of running a household. She was not entitled to unemployment benefits or and help. Is the money we gave her taxed as a one time gift or any other was to claim the money

    • According to the IRS, “gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year” are not taxable gifts.

      The annual exclusion in 2012 was $12,000, which is for each recipient, from each giver. If you and your spouse jointly held what was given as assistance, that would allow you to exclude up to $24,000 (half being from each of you).

      Assuming that you gave her less than that amount, the total gift is excluded (untaxed).

      Refer to IRS Publication 950, Introduction to Estate and Gift Taxes.

    • In 2012, the per-person exclusion was $12,000. If you and your spouse jointly held the resources that you provided to your daughter, then up to $24,000 given to your daughter would be excluded.

      Refer to IRS Publication 950.

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