People who come from a religious or spiritual perspective contribute money to their church, synagogue, mosque, or similar congregation.

Some households practice a form of donation called tithing. A tithe is a specific percentage of earned income that automatically goes to one of the above institutions.

Can I claim tithes on my taxes? The answer to that question in the U.S. depends on if the Internal Revenue Service recognizes the religious or spiritual institutions. If the IRS designates the facility as a church that meets the 501(c)(3) requirements for tax-exempt organizations, it automatically receives that status.

You are generally not allowed to claim more than 60% of your adjusted gross income as a charitable donation. 

Is It Necessary for a Church to Become a 501(c)(3) Organization?

Churches and bodies of believers have a special protected status in the tax code. The government recognizes that being part of this long-held tradition means that you are part of a congregation that performs valuable functions and assistance.

A church is not required to apply for a 501(c)(3) status because it is automatically granted. That means the current charitable donation tax laws apply.

Some churches decide to apply for this status anyway because it adds more transparency to the institution’s finances. It is quite useful for congregations that administer several simultaneous missions and services.

Your Tithe Can Go to Other Charities

Some believers support the mission of their faith without being part of a formal congregation. There may not be a church near their home, or the bodies of believers may not be a good fit for the family.

When you send your tithe to a 501(c)(3) charity, you may still claim your donation on your taxes.

Updates to the tax code make it more challenging for most families to have their tithing reach a qualifying level. With the increase to the standard deduction reaching $12,000 for individuals and $24,00 for couples, there isn’t enough money available to exceed what the standardized amount offers.

A family donating 10% as a tithe to their local church while making $60,000 per year would have a $6,000 claim. Unless there were other qualifying expenses, such as property tax or mortgage interest, the amount wouldn’t impact the filing.

If you have a specific question about your tithing, speak with a qualified tax advisor about your situation. The complexity of the current laws makes it impossible to provide individual advised in a generalized forum.