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Are donations to AA tax-deductible? (USA Only)

Is the money I put in the 7th Tradition basket at meetings tax deductible?
Sorry, but we must preface this with the typical legal bits: We are not lawyers or accountants and can't offer any information you shouldn't confirm with a qualified tax professional.

This is what we understand to be the current state of things:

In The USA many cash contributions to AA are technically tax deductible but in the practical sense the typical basket donations made in meetings will not hold up to the current record keeping requirements of the IRS.

Any charitable organization listed at http://www.irs.gov/app/pub-78/ can receive deductible donations and many AA groups and offices are listed.

Before 2007 the IRS allowed for $250 in annual cash contributions under lenient record keeping requirements. Today however, section 170(f)(17) of the IRS code requires written records to verify all cash contributions. These record keeping requirements mean that in the case of an audit the tax payer would need to provide a canceled check, credit card statement or a written receipt for whatever was donated.

Presumably a written receipt would need to be in a form where it could be verified as authentic by the IRS. This would mean the groups you attend would need to keep records of the written receipts. The average AA member will know how profoundly unlikely that is. AA groups and the IRS have very different approaches to record keeping.

So, in practice, there is no safe way to deduct the cash in the basket. Groups are just not organized enough to keep the required records and it is the rare individual who would even try to get a receipt in the first place.

If an individual where to contribute to a group, intergroup or other AA office using a personal check this likely would be a verifiable deductible donation with the canceled check serving as proof of the donation. It should be noted though that not all AA offices are registered as non-profits with the IRS. While AA World Service (AAWS) is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, this does not mean that all AA offices are - this is because of the "upside down" structure of AA where the groups are at the top and service offices, like AAWS, exist to serve the groups - not to govern them. Groups, intergroups, areas, etc. are *not* legal subsidiaries of AAWS because World Service does not "run" AA as a whole.

Many groups, intergroups, conferences and service offices have finished the extensive requisite paperwork with the IRS but others have not. So while a contribution to the Las Vegas Intergroup would be deductible a contribution to Area 16 of Northern Podunk may not be. Checking this link to the listing of IRS recognized non-profits might be a good idea. From the IRS perspective there is no AA as a whole - only hundreds of separate organizations with similar names.

Apart from typical "basket donations" we can note that individuals who attend AA as part of a professionally supervised alcoholism recovery plan may be able to deduct the expenses incurred in the AA related aspects of treatment - such as vehicle mileage getting to and from meetings. Here the expenses are viewed as deductible because it is part of a needed medical treatment.

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