Running for a cause is a great way to show support while testing your physical endurance. Serious competitors invest more than just time and entrance fees in pursuit of the finish line. But have you ever wondered if your event-related expenses could be written off as a charitable donation?
Rules for taking the charitable donation deduction:
If your goal is to write off a donation to charity, you need to make sure the organization is an eligible charity according to the IRS. This can be as simple as asking the organization if they qualify or visiting IRS.gov/EOSelectCheck.
You have to itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you’ll forfeit your charitable donation write-off.
If you get some kind of benefit in return for your contribution (SWAG, merchandise, tickets to an event, etc.) then you have to subtract the fair market value of the item you received from your donation amount.
If the fees cover just the cost of participation – i.e. the venue, a shirt, a chip – then your payment is not considered a charitable donation. On the other hand, if the event organizer makes it clear that a portion of all fees go directly to support the charity, you may deduct that specific amount of your cost. As always, the recipient must be a qualifying organization.
Say you write a check or make a separate money donation in addition to paying the entrance fee. In that case, your separate contribution would be deductible.
Can I deduct my running gear?
The only way you can deduct your running gear is if you treat racing as your business. If you race to make money and earn profit, the IRS would consider you a small business owner. In that case, you would need to report your race winnings, and you could also deduct expenses. If you run simply because you enjoy it, the IRS considers you a hobbyist, and your gear does not count as a deduction.
Can I deduct travel expenses to get to a race?
Like the running gear, travel expenses for hobby runners are not deductible. The IRS does allow , so if you do race to make a profit, your expenses could be a small business write-off.
How much can I write off for a charitable donation?
The limit for charitable donations has been increased under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Beginning in 2018, your gifts are deductible up to 60% of your adjusted gross income. That is up from 50% prior to the tax law changes (Learn more about how tax reform is affecting your taxes here).
This article is up to date and accounts for tax law changes for tax year 2018 (tax returns filed in 2019).