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Can I earmark a donation for a specific purpose?

New York, NY |

I recently heard that when making a donation to a tax-exempt organization, in order the get a tax deduction, the donor cannot earmark the funds for a particular purpose. I don’t believe this is true as I have heard of it as a customary practice among donors. Is it true?

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Attorney answers 3


Yes you can and it is still tax deductible.

If this answer is helpful, then please mark the helpful button. If this is the best answer, then please indicate it. Thanks. For further information you should see an attorney and discuss the matter completely. If you are in the New York City area, then you can reach me during normal business hours at 718 329 9500 or


It depends on what the earmark benefits. If it is for something general, but related to the operation of the charitable mission, then yes. If it is limited to benefit the donor, or the donor's friends or family, then no. Please consult an attorney before accepting. Also, when in doubt call the IRS.

No legal advice or research upon which one can rely is being provided here. The author assumes all inquiries on Avvo are hypothetical, or too general to give competent advice. The author strongly suggests all serious inquiries be taken to an attorney's office with the intent to hire competent counsel.



Can I not get a tax deduction for donating to my brother's ministry? It would benefit my family because my brother is the pastor and the ministry pays his salary.

Daniel Todd Friedson

Daniel Todd Friedson


It depends means what it means.... To clarify: One can not give money to the ministry and earmark it for one's sibling only. One can give to a charity where a family member works so long as it's not earmarked for that family member's private benefit. This is why it is good to hire a lawyer who can get to know the facts of your situation.


Donors are allowed to "restrict" their gifts to a charity for a specific purpose. The charity - if run well - will have a gift acceptance policy that will give them guidance on whether or not to accept your restricted gift and an appropriate accounting system to distinguish between unrestricted and restricted donations.

As to tax deductibility, if the charity accepts your gift, it should be tax deductible. As a previous attorney posted, there are exceptions for self-dealing transactions, but in general any cash donation made to a 501(c)(3) public charity is deductible on the donors' personal income taxes.

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