NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Occupy Wall Street announced this week that it has raised just less than half a million dollars since its inception more than a month ago, and the money keeps rolling in from around the world. What should you know about donating to the movement?
Occupy Wall Street, which did not respond to a request for comment by press time, has been directing those interested in giving money on their website to a variety of resources that differ in their tax exemption status.
The only way to make a donation to the group that will be deductible on your 2011 tax return is to donate to the Alliance for Global Justice, a 501(c)(3) group that is the “fiscal sponsor” for Occupy Wall Street.
The group, which is in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service, explained its relationship with the Occupy Wall Street protests on its website: “We are responsible to include [the OWS] financial reporting as part of our own when we file our annual tax return, which for nonprofits is called a form 990. We are accountable legally and financially to prove that all expenditures by OWS are within the IRS’s tax-exempt rules.”
The nonprofit said in the same blog post that it will pocket 7% of the money donated to the Occupy movement through its channels to pay for administrative expenses like donation processing.
Tax attorney Kelly Phillips Erb, also known as Tax Girl, says that if you want to make a donation to Occupy Wall Street through the Alliance for Global Justice, that donation is deductible.
“Always get a receipt,” Erb urges. Receipts are a solid record of your donation that the IRS would need to see, although Erb says the IRS could also accept a copy of a check or an annotated receipt as well if the amount is relatively small.
Donating through Occupy Wall Street’s other channels has trickier tax implications. Giving money to the movement’s Bitcoin or PayPal accounts, which you can find on the Occupy site, is not tax deductible, Erb says.
“It’s kind of like going up to a homeless guy and giving him $100,” says Erb. “It’s great, good for you, but it’s not deductible.”
Also, in-kind donations of food, clothing and other needed supplies that the protesters ask for on the Occupy site and on Twitter via the hashtag "#needsoftheoccupiers" are not deductible.