I am wondering if my donation to my friend's kid’s 501(c)(3) baseball team is deductible if I pay her thru a mobile app? She has posted on Facebook raffle tickets that I can buy for $10 a ticket — obviously to raise money for her son's team. I want to help. I want to buy tickets from her, but I'm not sure that if I send her the money it will be considered a donation from me to the team. Usually I write a check to the team and she would give it to the organization. How does this work in the electronic age?
Good question, but not the dispositive one in your situation. Ordinarily, you would be entitled to take a charitable contribution deduction for a gift directly to a charitable organization, the kid’s team in this case. You would need a record of the contribution, and would have one when you give your friend a check made out to the team. I assume that the app will provide you a written record of the recipient of your payment. If your payment goes directly to the team, you would have the appropriate record. If it goes to your friend and into her personal account, you probably wouldn’t be entitled to a deduction unless you could prove that she is accepting it as an agent for the charity. That may or may not be true, and might or might not be provable if you were ever audited.
But whether you pay directly to the team or not won’t make any difference in this case. The IRS says that purchasing raffle tickets is not making a charitable contribution. It takes the position that you are getting fair market value in return for your purchase, a chance to win the raffle prize.
So, just hope you win the raffle. Then you can deduct the cost of the tickets when you pay the tax on the winnings.