Tax Deductions for Business Donations

By Lauren Ward · May 30, 2024 · 9 minute read

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Tax Deductions for Business Donations

Can a business deduct charitable donations? Yes, small business donations to charities are often deductible.

Exactly how these deductions are treated will depend on your business structure, what you are donating, and the charity receiving your donation. In some cases, charitable contributions may only be deductible for the individual owners rather than the business itself.

Read on for a closer look at how tax deductions for business donations work, including how much you can give and how to report your company’s charitable giving on your tax return.

What Donations Are Tax-Deductible?

Not all donations are eligible for tax deductions. To qualify for a tax deduction, the donation must meet certain criteria. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

•  Qualified charities The recipient of your donation must be a qualified charitable organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These include nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, educational institutions, and certain government agencies. You can search for an organization’s eligibility to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions using the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.

•  Cash and property donations Cash donations are generally deductible, as well as donations of tangible property (such as equipment, inventory, or real estate). Typically, the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation is used to determine the deductible amount.

•  Services and time While the value of your time or services rendered to a charitable organization is not tax-deductible, certain out-of-pocket expenses directly related to volunteer work may be deductible.

No matter what type of donation you make, It’s important to keep detailed records of your donations, including receipts and acknowledgments from the recipient organization, to substantiate your tax deductions.

Recommended: Are Business Legal Fees Tax Deductible?

Benefits of Donating to a Charity as a Business

There are numerous benefits to donating to a charity that go beyond your tax return. Here’s a look at how philanthropy can positively impact your small business.

Positive Brand Image

Charitable giving demonstrates that your company gives back to the community and is in business for more than profit. Supporting charitable causes enhances your company’s reputation and demonstrates your commitment to social responsibility. This can attract customers who value businesses with a philanthropic focus.

Employee Morale and Engagement

Your company’s culture is likely important to both current and future staff, and employees generally feel good about working for a company that gives back. Engaging in charitable initiatives can boost employee morale and foster a sense of pride in working for your company. It can also encourage teamwork and improve employee retention and recruitment efforts.

Networking and Community Relations

Small businesses often depend on their communities to keep them afloat. Aligning your business with nonprofits in your area allows you to connect with like-minded individuals, other businesses, and community leaders. Building relationships within the community can lead to new opportunities, partnerships, and increased visibility for your business.

Should You Donate to Nonprofits As a Business?

Deciding whether or not to donate to nonprofit organizations as a business depends on a number of factors. Here are some you may want to consider.

•  Alignment with your business values: If you decide to donate to nonprofits as a business, it can be a good idea to choose causes that resonate with your company’s mission, values, and target audience. Authenticity in your charitable efforts can help strengthen your brand and make a more significant impact.

•  Financial capacity: You’ll want to assess your business’s financial health and determine how much you can comfortably allocate to charitable giving. It’s important to strike a balance between your philanthropic goals and maintaining a sustainable business operation.

•  Research and due diligence: Before donating to a nonprofit organization, it can be wise to research its mission, financial transparency, and impact. You’ll want to ensure that the organization is reputable and uses funds efficiently to achieve its stated objectives.

How Much Can You Deduct From Your Taxes?

The amount you can deduct depends on your business structure, the organization you are donating to, and your taxable income.

Technically, C corporations are the only business structure that can directly take a deduction for a charitable donation. C corporations can generally deduct any cash (plus the fair market value of any property) given to a charity up to 10% of the company’s taxable income. Any amount not deducted in the current year may be carried forward for a max of five years.

If you are organized as a pass-through business, the rules are different. A pass-through business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or S corporation that is not subject to the corporate income tax; instead, this business reports its income on the individual income tax returns of the owners and is taxed at individual income tax rates.

Pass-through businesses can make donations, but the business owners/shareholders have to report the donations as a personal charitable deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040). This provides a tax benefit only if you are able to itemize your deductions.

If you are organized as a pass-through business, your contributions will be subject to the same charitable contribution rules that apply to individuals. You are generally limited to making a cash gift of 60% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) and a non-cash gift of 30% of your AGI.

Whatever your organizational structure, other specific limitations may apply depending on the type of donation and the receiving charity. Consulting with a tax professional or referring to IRS Guidelines can help you determine the exact limits for your situation.

Recommended: What Are the Tax Benefits of an LLC?

Ways to Donate As a Small Business

Small businesses have various options for making charitable donations. Here are some common ways to donate:

•  Cash donations Direct financial contributions to nonprofit organizations are a straightforward and common method of giving. These can be one-time donations or recurring contributions.

•  Goods and services Rather than donating cash, you can provide goods that are valuable to the charitable organization. Another option is to volunteer your company’s time. Whether it’s working in a shelter’s kitchen, delivering meals, or providing professional services to a charitable organization, there are many ways to volunteer. (Note that donating business services or volunteer hours generally does not qualify for a charitable deduction on your taxes.)

•  Sponsorships and partnerships Partnering with nonprofit organizations through sponsorships or collaborative initiatives can be mutually beneficial. Your business can support their events or programs in exchange for recognition and marketing opportunities. For example, you might sponsor a local sports team by paying for uniforms or maintaining the fields. In return, you may be able to get your company’s name and logo displayed on both. (Keep in mind that if you donate to a local organization and, in exchange, they advertise your business, the IRS generally considers this a deductible business expense and not a charitable deduction.)

•  Employee giving programs Implementing employee giving programs, such as payroll deductions or matching gift programs, allows your employees to contribute to charities of their choice. Matching their donations can enhance employee engagement and demonstrate your commitment to social causes.

IRS Guidelines for Small Business Donations to Charity

To be compliant with the IRS’s guidelines for making donations to a charity as a small business, here are four tips to keep in mind.

1.   Maintain detailed records. It’s important to have a paper trail of your charitable contributions, including receipts, acknowledgments, and documentation of any non-cash contributions. These records will be crucial for substantiating your tax deductions during an audit.

2.   Verify the organization’s nonprofit status. As mentioned above, it’s key to confirm that the organization you plan to donate to is a qualified charitable organization recognized by the IRS.

3.   Obtain written acknowledgments. For cash or other donations of $250 or more, you must obtain written acknowledgments from the recipient organization. These acknowledgments should include the donation amount, a description of any goods or services received in return, and a statement confirming that no significant goods or services were provided in exchange for the donation.

4.   Follow appraisal requirements. If you donate property valued at more than $5,000, you generally need to obtain a qualified appraisal and include Form 8283 with your tax return. (If you donate a household or everyday item valued at $500 or more, you may also need an appraisal.)

How Much Should Your Business Be Giving?

Determining the appropriate amount for your business to donate depends on several factors.
For starters, you’ll want to consider your company’s financial health. While donating money to a charitable organization has numerous benefits, you’ll want to make sure that the amount you give doesn’t impair your company’s cash flow. You may want to consult with a financial advisor or accountant who specializes in small business taxes and philanthropy. These professionals can help you determine a suitable giving strategy based on your specific circumstances.

As you consider how much to give and where, you may also want to factor in the impact you can have on the recipient organizations and level of support you can maintain. You might, for example, decide to focus on making one or two meaningful contributions rather than just spreading your resources thin.

It’s generally a good idea to establish a clear and transparent “giving policy” that outlines your business’s philanthropic goals, target causes, and guidelines for donation amounts. This policy can serve as a framework that can help guide all of your giving decisions moving forward.

The Takeaway

As a business owner, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on society while also receiving potential tax benefits. Understanding the guidelines and benefits of business donations is essential for maximizing both your philanthropic efforts and potential tax savings.

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How does the tax code define a deductible business donation?

A deductible business donation is a contribution of cash, property, or services made by a business to a qualified charitable organization. To be deductible, the donation must meet specific criteria, including the eligibility of the recipient organization and the nature of the donation.

Is there a limit that companies can donate?

The internal revenue service (IRS) does not impose a specific limit on the amount that companies can donate. However, there are limitations on the amount that businesses can deduct as charitable contributions. Generally, corporations can deduct up to 10% of their taxable income for charitable donations. Other restrictions may apply depending on the type of donation and the organization receiving the donation.

How does a business show proof of a donation for taxes?

To provide proof of your donation for tax purposes, you’ll need to keep accurate records. This includes receipts, acknowledgments from the recipient organization, bank statements, canceled checks, and/or any other record of the donation. It is important to retain these records and have them readily available in case of an audit.

Can a business claim a tax deduction for volunteer time donated to an organization?

No, a business cannot claim a tax deduction for the value of volunteer time donated to a nonprofit organization. While the time and services provided by employees or business owners are valuable contributions, they are not considered tax-deductible expenses for businesses. Expenses related to volunteering, such as travel costs, may be deductible, however.

Does donating to foreign organizations change my deductions?

Donating to foreign organizations can affect your tax deductions. Generally, donations to qualified U.S. charities are tax-deductible, while donations to foreign organizations may not be eligible for the same tax benefits. However, certain donations to specific foreign organizations may qualify for deductions. Consult a tax professional to understand the details.

How does the tax code treat in-kind donations, such as donated goods or property?

The tax code generally treats in-kind donations as deductible contributions. The deductible amount is typically based on the fair market value of the donated item at the time of the donation, so it’s important to properly document and value any goods or property you donate. If the value exceeds $5,000, you generally need to get a qualified appraisal. A tax professional can offer guidance on this.

Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions

SoFi's marketplace is owned and operated by SoFi Lending Corp. See SoFi Lending Corp. licensing information below. Advertising Disclosures: SoFi receives compensation in the event you obtain a loan through SoFi’s marketplace. This affects whether a product or service is featured on this site and could affect the order of presentation. SoFi does not include all products and services in the market. All rates, terms, and conditions vary by provider.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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