The 2020 Joint Charitable Standard Deduction: $300 or $600?

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As we found out back in March, the CARES Act created a $300 Charitable Contribution Deduction for those taking the standard deduction. However, the tax code was ambiguous as to whether the deduction is $300 per person or $300 per form.

In other words, is the charitable standard deduction limit for joint filers $600 or $300?

Until recently, the answer to this question has been ambiguous as the related U.S. code says, “the amount (not to exceed $300) of qualified charitable contributions made by an eligible individual during the taxable year” where “The term ‘eligible individual’ means any individual who does not elect to itemize deductions.”

Then, at the end of October the draft instructions for the 2020 Form 1040 came out and answered the question.

The instructions for the new Line 10b says:

If you don’t itemize deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), you (or you and your spouse if filing jointly) can take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to organizations that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific, or literary in purpose. See Pub. 526 for more information on the types of organizations that qualify. A deduction can’t be taken for a contribution to an organization described in IRC 509(a)(3) or for the establishment of a new, or maintenance of an existing, donor advised fund. Also, contributions of noncash property and contributions carried forward from prior years don’t qualify for this deduction. See the Instructions for Schedule A and Pub. 526 for more information on those types of contributions.Enter the total amount of your contributions on line 10b. Don’t enter more than $300.

This makes clear, the $300 limit is per form. This means that both joint and single filers are limited to a $300 maximum charitable standard deduction.

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Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.