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In the United States, are donations to public schools like a local elementary school deductible in the same way that donations to a 501(c)(3) charity or a church are deductible?

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Good question! My guess is they probably not deductible since they are kind of state run organizations. –  Vitalik Apr 7 '11 at 12:45
@Vitalik Thanks for fixing the 501(c)(3) reference. –  Alex B Apr 7 '11 at 14:26

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

See IRS Pub 526:

Deductible As Charitable Contributions

Money or property you give to:


  • Nonprofit schools and hospitals
  • Federal, state, and local governments, if your contribution is solely for public purposes (for example, a gift to reduce the public debt or maintain a public park)

Your local school is likely nonprofit and a branch of the local government. If so, yes, the donation is tax-deductible.

See also IRS Pub 17, which has some duplication from Pub 526:

Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions


You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization, and most will be able to tell you.


  • Most nonprofit educational organizations, including the Boy (and Girl) Scouts of America, colleges, museums, and daycare centers if substantially all the child care provided is to enable individuals (the parents) to be gainfully employed and the services are available to the general public. However, if your contribution is a substitute for tuition or other enrollment fee, it is not deductible as a charitable contribution, as explained later under Contributions You Cannot Deduct.
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Also note, that organizations associated with the school may or may not be tax-deductible. For example, sports boosters, or a club. –  duffbeer703 Apr 10 '11 at 1:44
@duff - Right. I think our local PTA either has or is pursuing 501c3 status. –  bstpierre Apr 10 '11 at 2:37

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