In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, individuals, employers and
corporations are interested in providing assistance to the victims through
charitable organizations. The IRS provides a number of resources to help those
involved with providing disaster relief through charities.
Aid to Individuals
Organizations may provide assistance to individuals in the form of funds,
services or goods to ensure that victims have the basic necessities such as
food, clothing, housing (including repairs), transportation and medical
assistance (including psychological counseling). The type of aid that is
appropriate depends on the individual’s needs and resources. Disaster relief
organizations are generally in the best position to determine appropriate
A charity may provide crisis counseling, rescue services or emergency aid
such as blankets or hot meals in the immediate aftermath of a disaster without a
showing of financial need. Providing such services to the distressed in the
immediate aftermath of a disaster serves a charitable purpose regardless of the
recipients’ financial condition. For further guidance, the IRS provides
additional information for donors and charitable organizations in
3833 – Disaster Relief Providing Assistance through Charitable Organizations.
Donations to Disaster Relief Organizations
In these emergency situations, it is generally recommended that donations be
made to an existing, recognized section 501(c)(3) charity to provide immediate
relief. For instance, a religious organization like Catholic Charities or a
relief organization like the Red Cross are existing organizations that have
provided targeted disaster relief and emergency hardship assistance in response
to natural disasters and other unforeseen emergencies. Community-based
organizations and charities with a local presence often know best what
assistance is needed, and they understand the social and cultural context of a
disaster. Working with and supporting these types of existing organizations may
prove to be a more efficient use of disaster relief resources.
Year of Deductibility of Contributions
On Jan. 15, 2010, U.S. House of Representatives leaders Rangel, Camp, Clyburn
and Cantor introduced a bill that would allow taxpayers to claim a charitable
deduction for the 2009 tax year for charitable contributions made to Haiti
relief. If enacted, the legislation would allow an income tax charitable
deduction for tax year 2009 for charitable cash contributions made after Jan.
11, 2010, and before March 1, 2010, for the relief of earthquake victims. Senate
Finance Committee leadership has indicated that a similar measure would be
The Council on Foundations has asked the IRS to declare the Haitian
earthquake a “qualified disaster” pursuant to section 139(c)(3) of the Internal
Revenue Code. This would allow company-sponsored private foundations to be able
to make qualified disaster payments to employees and their family members
affected by the disaster.
McGuireWoods Nonprofit and Charitable Advisory Services
Charitable Advisory Services provides advice and guidance that enables
charities and other nonprofits to operate successfully in the increasingly
complicated, regulated, and competitive environment facing nonprofits today.