Can I Get a Tax Deduction for Haiti Donation?

in Tax Deductions


On January 12, 2010, Haiti – already the poorest and least developed country in the Western Hemisphere – was hit by a massive 7.0 Mw earthquake. This resulted in one of the largest humanitarian disasters in recent history, with more than 225,000 people being killed, 300,000 be injured and more than a million people being left homeless. To make it worse, as of January 24 there had been 52 aftershocks measured at 4.5 Mw or higher, resulting in ongoing mass panic and destruction. The earthquake destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, including many government buildings and hospitals, making relief efforts even more difficult. The world has rallied to Haiti’s relief, with a massive influx of humanitarian aid coming in from all around the world.

As the United States tax system is designed as a progressive system, it is actively used to promote activity that the government deems beneficial to society. This means that tax credits and deductions are provided to encourage desirable behavior and tax penalties are created to discourage undesirable behavior. Among those activities that the tax code promotes is charitable donations. Generally speaking, cash contributions to properly registered charitable organizations can be deducted from a taxpayer’s annual income tax liability for the year in which the contribution was made including many of the organizations that are helping Haiti since the earthquake.

Under normal circumstances, since the earthquake occurred in January of 2010, people would not be able to deduct any charitable contributions they made on behalf of Haiti until they filed their 2010 tax returns. However, due to the devastation faced by Haiti and as a means of encouraging more active giving on behalf of Haiti, Congress enacted a special law allowing people to deduct charitable contributions for earthquake relief from their 2009 tax returns. H.R.4462, passed by Congress on January 22 allows contributions specifically earmarked for earthquake relief made between January 11, 2010, and March 1, 2010 to be deducted from the taxpayer’s 2009 tax return.

Since the earthquake and the subsequent legislation occurred after the 2009 tax forms had already been produced and released, in order to claim this deduction all qualified donations are to be treated as though they were made on December 31, 2009. As is the case with all itemized deductions, the taxpayer must file a “long form” 1040 (or 1040NR) as well as itemize their deductions on Schedule A to be attached to the form 1040. The other requirements are essentially the same as any other charitable contribution deduction, namely it must made to a qualifying charity. However, it is important to note that in order to qualify for the 2009 deduction, the specific fund donated to must be explicitly designated for Haiti earthquake relief.   

Special allowances have also been made to allow people to claim the deduction if the contributions was made over the phone or through text messaging as well. Basically any phone bill or receipt that shows the name of the organization donated to, the date and the amount of the donation will satisfy the recordkeeping requirements of the IRS.


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