August 28, 2017 10:51 pm

Helping Victims of Hurricane Harvey

The devastation to Houston and a large part of Texas and beyond because of Hurricane Harvey is historic. Homes and businesses have been lost, and it will take months or years for some areas to recovery fully. What can you do to help, and what does it mean from a tax perspective?

Give to charities providing relief to victims

There are numerous well-known charities, such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, that are spearheading assistance to victims. The United Way and other reputable charities are accepting donations for hurricane victims. Other organizations may provide specific relief, such as the SPCA or Humane Society for pets.

Check the IRS online list of exempt organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions at

Beware of scam charities

Based on what’s happened in the past following a major disaster, there’s bound to be numerous organizations claiming to raise funds or provide relief for hurricane victims. Only those approved by the IRS can receive tax-deductible contributions. Bogus charities may be scams to obtain money from well-meaning individuals. Again, check the IRS online list of recognized organizations before making any contribution.

Blood donations

As with any disaster, there’s an ongoing need for blood donations. Check the American Red Cross and local blood centers to learn how you can donate. You won’t get a charitable deduction for the donation, but you can deduct the cost of driving to and from a blood donor location as long as you have a record of your mileage. The deductible amount: 14 cents per mile.

Direct donations to victims

Anything you do to help a hurricane victim is appreciated. However, if you give clothing, food, or other items directly to a family in need, you cannot take any tax deduction. The reason: the donation is to individuals, no matter how worthy, and not to an IRS-approved charity. If you claim the standard deduction, it doesn’t matter, but if you itemize and want a tax write-off for your generosity, then limit your donations to an IRS-approved charity.


Watch for possible Congressional action to create special rules for the Hurricane Harvey zone. This may impact your charitable inclinations.