Are PAC Donations Tax Deductible?

by Tom Streissguth
Political candidates rely on PAC money to pay for their campaigns.

Political candidates rely on PAC money to pay for their campaigns.

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Political campaigns are all about the money: asking for it, raising it and then spending it. Donations to candidates buy advertising and pay for campaign rallies and other events. Individuals and organizations may support candidates by giving to a political action committee. A PAC is organized to support candidates and parties. Because the Internal Revenue Service doesn't consider PACs as charities, you may not deduct your contributions to them.

Direct PAC Donations

The IRS does not allow the deduction of any money contributed to a political party or candidate. This includes money you give directly to the candidate or donations to a political action committee. A PAC cannot act as a charity for tax purposes. Since the stated purpose of the organization is to influence political campaigns, donations to a PAC cannot be deducted as charitable gifts.

Other Activities

The IRS does not make exceptions for any activities a PAC may carry out. This includes campaign events such as dinners, where supporters donate for the privilege of meeting a candidate or hearing him speak. Nor can you deduct money donated for the PAC's advertising expenses, or for its publications (such as newsletters and campaign fliers). This is true even if the PAC pays the money to a charitable organization for this purpose.

Other Organizations

The IRS does provide for deductions to groups organized solely for charitable purposes, also known as 501(c)(3) groups. In addition, 501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups are supposed to act in the interest of communities, not candidates; those that do any political lobbying or campaign work risk losing their tax-exempt status. You may deduct donations to 501(c)(3)s but not 501(c)(4)s. By advocating certain laws or government policies, many tax-exempt groups do lobby indirectly on behalf of one political party or the other. The political advocacy of 501(c)(4) groups, in particular, has come under increasing scrutiny by the IRS.

Charitable Contributions

If you wish to support a legitimate charity supported by your favored political candidate or PAC, you can deduct contributions to that charity in money or property only by itemizing the deduction on Schedule A. You can't take a standard deduction and also deduct charitable gifts. The donation can be made only to a qualified organization, never to an individual, and the IRS requires documentation of the donation if its value exceeds $250.

About the Author

Tom Streissguth has authored more than 100 books for the school and library market, including works for the Gale, Enslow, Facts on File and Lerner Publications. He is the founder of The Archive, an independent publisher of historical journalism collections, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University.

Photo Credits

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