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Community Chorus dues tax deductable?

The community chorus I conduct has recently started charging dues to its members (something it never did before in its 30-plus years of existence).  There have been a number of inquiries concerning whether or not these dues could be deducted as charitable deductions on their taxes.  Since they are now required of all singers, I am not sure whether they can be considered "charitable".  Ours is not a paid-professional organization, but many of the members are music professionals of some sort (music teachers, church musicians, etc.).  Some of them presently deduct these as "professional expense."  I don't know if Uncle Sam would like that one either, but that is arguable since it seems to qualify as "educational" in their profession, or in some cases, a professional activity for resume purposes.
 
Any input to feed back to my board before I call the lawyers?
 
Bruce Borton
on November 16, 2012 12:18pm
Bruce:  Call the lawyers!!!  This isn't something we should be guessing
about.  I suspect that required dues are NOT deductible as charitable, but
there might be a way around that by making them voluntary.  For a
professional musician it probably IS deductible as a business expense, but
that would also be subject to interpretation.

All the best,  --John
on November 16, 2012 1:18pm
on November 17, 2012 7:46am
Call a tax lawyer!  My husband is a tax professional.  John is right - the dues cannot be a charitable deduction.  If the dues were called a charitable contribution, then they would really have to be voluntary and membership could not be contingent on this contribution.  That would be tax fraud.   As for being a professional expense, they would have to show at the minimum that this expense increases their ability to earn income from this activity.
on November 17, 2012 8:02am
I am an attorney.  The answer is unambiguous.  Because the singers are receiving something in exchange for their donation (the right to sing in the choir), dues are not deductible.  Any donation in excess of that is deductible.
 
However, all taxpayers have different levels of aggressiveness in deciding what to deduct.  If they want to deduct it - that is their choice.  All I am saying is that if they are audited, the deduction will be disallowed.
 
David Spitko
Applauded by an audience of 2
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