What Is IRS Publication 78?

IRS Publication 78 is a document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that lists organizations that qualify to receive tax-deductible contributions, as described in Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

Individuals can claim deductions of both cash and non-cash items made to qualified organizations, with typical deductions not exceeding 50% of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI).

Key Takeaways

  • IRS Publication 78 is a set of tax guidelines spelling out which types of organizations may receive tax-deductible contributions.
  • Examples include charitable organizations, community trusts, churches or synagogues, and certain fraternal societies, among others.
  • Charitable giving is an important and sizable income tax deduction for American taxpayers, so these guidelines are helpful for determining eligibility.

The Basics of IRS Publication 78

The IRS offers an online version of IRS Publication 78 on its website, which allows taxpayers to quickly check to see if a charitable organization qualifies for tax-deductible contributions. The list is not all-inclusive and might not show every qualifying organization, so an individual tax filer should check to see if an organization has a ruling or determination letter indicating that contributions to it are considered tax-deductible.

IRS Publication 78 should be viewed in conjunction with IRS Publication 561 and IRS Publication 526.

Examples of Publication 78 Organizations

Certain other eligible donees (i.e., churches, group ruling subordinates, and governmental units) are not listed in this database, according to the IRS, which states that you may deduct a charitable contribution made to, or for the use of, any of the following organizations that otherwise are qualified under section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code:

  • A state or United States possession (or political subdivision thereof), or the United States or the District of Columbia, if made exclusively for public purposes
  • A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation, organized or created in the United States or its possessions, or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States, and organized and operated exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals
  • A church, synagogue, or other religious organization
  • A war veterans' organization or its post, auxiliary, trust, or foundation organized in the United States or its possessions
  • A nonprofit volunteer fire company
  • A civil defense organization created under federal, state, or local law (this includes unreimbursed expenses of civil defense volunteers that are directly connected with and solely attributable to their volunteer services)
  • A domestic fraternal society, operating under the lodge system, but only if the contribution is to be used exclusively for charitable purposes
  • A nonprofit cemetery company if the funds are irrevocably dedicated to the perpetual care of the cemetery as a whole and not a particular lot or mausoleum crypt

Recent changes in the tax code starting in 2018 may limit the actual deductions many taxpayers can make for charitable groups.