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May we raffle surplus equipment?

Your Legal Questions Answered

May we raffle surplus equipment?

Our Senior Friendship Club, a 501(c)(3) organization, is moving to other quarters. We will no longer need some of the equipment. Can we raffle this equipment and give proceeds back to club?

I always get a little nervous when nonprofits talk about raffles, because they are often technically illegal.  Although gambling laws are among the least enforced laws in the country, someone out to get you can make an issue of it and there is not much of a defense.  Some jurisdictions allow certain types of raffles, but it may require a special license or other registration.  You won’t lose your exempt status because of an occasional small raffle, legal or illegal, but you could get into other trouble if you don’t follow the raffle rules.

In addition, from a donor’s point of view, the IRS does not allow a charitable contribution deduction for the price of the ticket because the IRS deems the price of the ticket equal to the value of the chance to win.

In this case, you might want to consider auctioning the equipment.  Since used equipment probably doesn’t have a very high fair market value, if a supporter of your organization bids something more than a reasonable low estimate of value that you place on any specific piece, the donor can claim a contribution deduction for the amount paid over the estimate.  In any case, the organization can keep the proceeds of the auction without concerns about taxes or criminal prosecution.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
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