As someone living in a foreign country, you may wonder if you can still make a difference by donating to charities or volunteering your time to not-for-profit organizations. To skip to the punchline: Yes! There are some nuances you need to know to make sure that your time and effort goes to the right place, but know that supporting charity is one of the best things you can do for your new community.
So can you make cash donations? Here's what you need to do to understand the tax implications of such donations, and some guidance on finding a worthy charity to support.
Making Donations in the U.S.: What Expats Should Know
Yes, as an expat living in the U.S., you are absolutely allowed to make donations to charities, whether they are local or international.
What are the Tax Implications for Donations for Expats?
While charitable donations are indeed possible as an expat, the tax implications can vary greatly based on your specific circumstances. In the U.S., charitable donations are only tax-deductible if they are made to a U.S.-registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
If you're an expat from another country and you're donating to a charity in your home country while living in the U.S., you may not be able to claim this as a tax deduction on your U.S. tax return, unless there is a specific tax treaty between the two countries that allows for it.
To fully understand the tax benefits you might receive from your charitable donations, it's recommended to consult with a tax professional familiar with international tax laws.
How Do I Find a Good Charity to Donate To?
Choosing a charity to donate to is a personal decision, but there are several resources to help ensure your donation is put to good use:
- Charity Watchdogs: Organizations like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the Better Business Bureau provide independent assessments of charities, considering factors like financial health, transparency, and accountability.
- Direct Contact: Reach out to the charity directly. Ask about their mission, projects, and how they use donations. Reputable charities should be transparent and willing to answer your questions.
- Personal Values: Choose a charity that aligns with your personal values and passions. Whether you're passionate about education, health, the environment, or social justice, there's likely a charity working in that field.
If you don't know of any who might benefit from your hard-earned dollars can I recommend two to you? The Mateship Foundation is doing great work out of LA helping those who are struggling and might be homeless (full disclosure: I'm the secretary on the Board). Another great charity is Variety – the Children's Charity of New York who are doing incredible work helping sick, disadvantaged, and underprivileged youth across the tri-state area!
Volunteering Your Time: A Valuable Contribution
In addition to monetary donations, volunteering your time and skills is a valuable way to support not-for-profit organizations.
As an expat, you bring a unique perspective and diverse experience that can benefit the organization. Look for local volunteer opportunities or consider virtual volunteering if in-person opportunities are limited.
Remember, any contribution, no matter how small, can make a significant impact.
A note on political donations
One thing to note is that political donations are not allowed if you're a “foreign national”, more on that here.