Is Greenpeace Tax Deductible in 2021? Why They Can’t Give You a Tax Receipt

Greenpeace is a global, independent organization that uses peaceful protest and awareness programs to expose global environmental issues, such as carbon footprints, environmental disasters, and plastic waste, as well as promote solutions for a green and peaceful future.1

One of the ways to get involved with them is through donations to help combat climate change.

But… many people wonder why isn’t their donation to Greenpeace tax deductible.

If you donate to Greenpeace Fund, Inc., a qualified 501(c)(3), your donation is tax-deductible. However if you donate to Greenpeace, Inc., a 501(c)(4) entity, it is not.

But, what does this mean?

An 8 Billion Trees graphic of eco tax deduction, with an illustration of carbon dioxide and a person holding a 1040 form

Greenpeace is a respected organization, but supporters should understand why their contributions aren’t always deductible, as well as how to ensure that future ones will be credited as “charitable giving” by the Internal Revenue Service.

Why Certain Greenpeace Donations Aren’t Tax Deductible: It’s All About the Name

Giving financial gifts to Green Peace can be a confusing venture. This is because the environmental organization both is and isn’t tax-deductible. At first glance, this doesn’t make any sense. Most donations are either tax-deductible or not; there is usually no grey area.

However, things are a bit trickier with Greenpeace, since two distinct legal entities represent the entire organization: Greenpeace, Inc. and Greenpeace Fund, Inc.

Greenpeace Inc.

Generally speaking, Greenpeace, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. If you donate a gift to the organization under this title, the contribution would not be tax-deductible. This is because Greenpeace, Inc. is officially a “campaigning and lobbying organization,”1  which is registered as a 501(c)(4). This classification has different rules for taxes than a 501(c)(3).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not allow2 contributions to these organizations to be filed as deductibles, thus eliminating Greenpeace’s ability to provide their supporters with a tax receipt after donating.

Expenditures for organizations that meet any of the following criteria are listed as nondeductible:3

  • Influencing legislative activities (e.g., lobbying)
  • Any extent of participation in a political campaign in support or opposition of a particular candidate who’s running for public office
  • Leading efforts to influence public elections, legislation, or referendums
  • Maintaining direct communication with executive officials in attempts to influence political actions, decisions, or positions

However, there is an exception: If your company gives to Green Peace as a business expense and the expense is legitimately related to operations, then you may deduct the donation using a schedule C (form 1040). This form is used to report loss or income from a business, or a profession you practiced as sole proprietor.5 However, you shouldn’t try to use this exception unless your donation meets the criteria defined by the IRS regarding legitimate business expenses.

When Can You Deduct Your Greenpeace Donation? Greenpeace Fund, Inc.

Contributions to Greenpeace Fund, Inc., the organization’s other legal identity, are deductible. Although Greenpeace Fund, Inc. still carries out limited lobbying activity, it is primarily a grant-making organization. It’s responsible for funding Greenpeace research and providing the financial means to support charitable giving and global public education opportunities.

You can list your contributions to Greenpeace Fund, Inc. as tax-deductible because this particular legal identity is a 501(c)(3). The IRS allows taxpayers to claim donations to such organizations as deductibles.

In general, you must give your charitable contribution to Greenpeace before the end of the tax year to claim it as a deductible.

What to Know When Donating to Greenpeace

When donating to Greenpeace, pay close attention when submitting your contributions to ensure you get to claim them on your federal taxes. Double-check that the organization’s name includes the word “Fund.” Otherwise, you’ll likely give to the 501(c)(4) entity by mistake.

Additionally, know that there is more than one way to donate to Greenpeace. Depending on which option you choose, your federal tax filing process may change slightly. If you donate a cash gift, you’ll need a Schedule A form with your tax documentation to claim your Greenpeace donation as a deduction. On the other hand, non-cash donations require Form 8283.

There may also be limitations on what you receive once you file your taxes. These limitations don’t apply if you’ve given Greenpeace a non-cash item. In these cases, you can simply claim the item’s fair market value. But, if your item’s value increases, you might have to make some adjustments to file correctly.

Conditions of Your Donation

Imagine you donated cash in exchange for a gift or an event ticket. If so, you can only deduct the difference between the gift’s or ticket’s value, and your donation. In general, charitable contributions can only be deducted up to 50% of your adjusted gross income, independent of any loss carry-backs.

If you’re wondering what you can get “in exchange” for a donation to Greenpeace, the org’s listed perks for charitable contributions exceeding $1,000 include:

  • Exclusive invitations to Greenpeace events
  • Private tours of Greenpeace ships
  • Recognition in the organization’s annual report
  • A personal Greenpeace liaison
  • Greenpeace wall calendar

Also, there is a difference between a charitable donation and a gift. If you give a donation to Greenpeace, Inc., you would be giving the organization a “gift.” Gifts are not tax-deductible and can be given to anyone. On the other hand, if you’re donating to Greenpeace Fund, Inc., you are giving to a qualified organization according to the IRS, which makes your contribution tax-deductible.

You can check the IRS’s guidelines before completing your returns to ensure you get it right the first time.

People working at a Kenya reforestation planting site wearing 8 Billion Trees vests, with an 8 Billion Trees watermark

Documenting Greenpeace Donations

If you’ve given a cash donation to Greenpeace, you must keep track of it in the form of a written document. It’s best to either keep bank records or some form of communication between you and the organization in writing, acknowledging your donation.

Since Greenpeace Fund, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), you should receive some form of documentation verifying your contribution. There is no specific requirement on how Greenpeace should provide this. They can handle the correspondence via email or take the more formal route and deliver a letter to you, thanking you for your support.

Tracking Donations

Although there are no specific rules in place for how this organization should track members’ donations, there are some rules that govern this aspect of charitable activities:

  • Donors are required to obtain a bank record or a form of written communication from the charity they contributed to, reflecting the given funds before attempting to claim the sum on their federal income tax returns.
  • If you gave a single contribution of $250 or more, you must acquire a written acknowledgment from Green peace before claiming it on your federal taxes.
  • Greenpeace is legally obligated to provide a written disclosure* to donors who receive goods or services in exchange for a single contribution over $75.

*If you give Greenpeace a single donation and receive any goods or services in return – such as their special offering all the perks listed above for $1,000 donations or subscriptions of $45 monthly – your donation would then be known as a “quid pro quo contribution.”

When claiming these kinds of donations as deductibles on your return, you can only receive the difference in value between your donation and the good’s or service’s fair market value. The accompanying written disclosure must provide you with the following information:

  • The amount of the contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes.
  • A good faith estimate of the fair market value of the goods and services you received.

Along with this information, the disclosure document should feature:

  • Your name
  • The total amount of money or non-cash items you donated
  • A statement on what you received in return, if anything

You must maintain all your documents from the moment you send your contribution until you file your federal taxes. Without any records of your Greenpeace donation, you won’t be able to claim it as a deduction.

Supporting Environmental Organizations

Contributing to a charitable organization can get confusing, especially when it has two separate legal identities like Greenpeace.

To ensure your good deed meets IRS qualifications, check that you’re giving to Greenpeace Fund, Inc., a qualified 501(c)(3), and keep the paperwork for the next tax season. That way, you can do your part to do something good for the earth, and also make sure that your donation is tax-deductible.

By supporting the efforts of organizations like Greenpeace, you can help reduce the impact of carbon emissions, restore and protect ecosystems, and save the planet.


References

1Greenpeace USA. (2015, June 2). Membership FAQ. Retrieved June 16, 2021, from greenpeace.org:  https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/membership-faq/

2Internal Revenue Service. (2021, February 2). Donations to section 501c4 organizations.Retrieved June 16, 2021, from irs.gov: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/other-non-profits/donations-to-section-501c4-organizations

3Internal Revenue Service. (2020, December 8). Nondeductible lobbying and political expenditures. Retrieved June 16, 2021, from irs.gov: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/other-non-profits/nondeductible-lobbying-and-political-expenditures-1

4Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Charitable contributions: Substantiation and disclosure requirements (1771). Retrieved June 16, 2021, from irs.gov: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1771.pdf

5About Schedule C (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship). Internal Revenue Service. (2021). retrieved June 24, 2021, from irs.gov: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-schedule-c-form-1040.