Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Your OWS Donation Tax Deductible? Does It Matter? [Video]

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Your OWS Donation Tax Deductible? Does It Matter? [Video]

Article excerpt

OWS money is pouring in, but don't try to deduct your donation to Occupy Wall Street. OWS isn't an official charity.

Donations are pouring in to local Occupy websites across the country and around the world. Want to contribute to the protest movement in your city? It's perfectly legal, as long as you don't mark it as a deduction on your taxes.

As the Occupy Wall Street protests in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park roll through their second month, online donations for things like food, shelter, computer support, and the OWS print newspaper fund are hovering right around $500,000. In Boston, where protesters have been occupying Dewey Square for the past month, donations are currently at $24,980 and rising.

"Right now our biggest priority is winterization, so some donations will go toward snow removal, and different options that we are looking into for shelter," says Eric Martin, a member of Occupy Boston's financial accountability working group. "We want to make sure that everyone is warm, comfortable, and safe."

Despite the money they're pulling in, the Occupy movements are not registered as tax-exempt nonprofits or charities. According to Jeffrey Levine, a certified public accountant and member of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Aaccountants, this isn't really a problem. A gift to the Occupy movement is your prerogative; just don't mark it on your tax return.

"Donors aren't running any risk as long as they don't mark it as a charitable deduction. [Occupy Boston] could at some point obtain nonprofit tax-exempt status, but it probably won't be recognized as a charity," he says.

What's the difference between a nonprofit and a charity? Nonprofits (Mr. Levine cited the example of the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce) don't turn a profit and are thereby exempt from taxation. But according to tax law, only contributions to organizations that qualify as charities are allowable tax deductions. Charities must serve the general public interest, and there are nine types under the federal tax code. …

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