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Girl Scout cookies might be tax deductible

Girl Scout with boxes of cookies courtesy Girl Scouts of the USAIt's one of my most favorite times of the year. Girl Scout cookies are on sale!

I'm a Thin Mints addict. I could eat a whole box in one sitting. They are great alone or crumbled over a bowl (or gallon) of vanilla ice cream. This has been a tasty temptation for as long as I can recall.

So every year I buy more boxes than I should.

I tell myself that the purchase is for a good cause, and it is.

Thin Mints and the other varieties of cookies are a fund-raising project for the local Girl Scout troops. They also give the youngsters some entrepreneurial and money management experience.

Deductible delicacies: Every year when the cookies go on sale, I also get asked the same tax question: Are Girl Scout cookie purchases tax deductible?

Today's Daily Tax Tip looks at the answer, which is "maybe."

The Girl Scouts of the USA is an Internal Revenue Service registered 501(c)(3) group, so donations you make to the group are tax deductible.

But when you're buying cookies for your own personal consumption from your neighborhood Girl Scouts, you are not making a donation. You are purchasing a product as a fair market value. Here in northwest Austin, each box is going for $4 this year.

In this buy-to-eat (as quickly as possible!) case, no part of your purchase price is tax deductible. The Internal Revenue Code says that you can't deduct anything from which you receive a personal benefit. That definitely covers Thin Mints and other varieties of Girl Scout cookies.

But, if you buy the cookies and then give them right back to the Girl Scouts who sold them, you can deduct the purchase price as a charitable contribution. The organization uses such cookie gifts in its Take Action projects or "Gift of Caring" programs. Here the Girl Scouts give the donated cookies to food pantries or send then to military personnel serving overseas.

Or, according to the Girl Scouts' cookie FAQ at the group's website, you can donate cookies you purchased from a Girl Scout to another organization, which may qualify as a donation to the organization receiving the cookies and may therefore be tax-deductible.

Of course, such cookie donations beg the obvious question of just what kind of fruitcake, to mix food metaphors, would not take the Thin Mints etc. to immediately eat!?

Personally, I'd rather just write the Girl Scouts a clearly tax-deductible check, which also serves as documentation of my gift, separate from my cookie purchases.

Cookie dilemma: The hubby bought Girl Scout cookies yesterday. That's the good news.

Thin Mints mmmmmm!The bad news is that he's leaving the two boxes of Thin Mints solely in my charge for four days as he heads out of town on a business trip.

As noted up front, I'm a total Thin Mints cookie monster. And without the hubby's presence, I am going to be sorely tempted to eat every last crumb before he returns.

It's not that the hubby polices my eating habits. It's just that he has so much more willpower when it comes to sweets -- he eats just three or four M&Ms; I'm talking for the day, not just one mouthful here! -- so I try not appear so out-of-control when he and treats are both around.

So I am in big trouble for most of next week.

Wish me luck in controlling my Thin Mints appetite.

And in case I can't refrain from eating them all in the hour after his plane takes off, wish me luck in finding more Thin Mint selling Girl Scouts. To be on the safe side, I'm downloading the organization's cookie-finding mobile app (no kidding!).

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Elmer Stoup

Darn! Your tease of a headline got my hopes up that I could allocate a portion of the cost of the cookies I eat to charitable contributions.

Brian Huber

You women and your Thin Mints addictions crack me up. (But I get it... I once ate an entire box of the darn things while watching a golf tournament on TV. But I was 21 and didn’t yet have my current willpower over sweets that’s identical to your husband.) Someone who buys a whole truckload of Thin Mints – and later realizes that her eyes were bigger than her stomach – could donate them to a charitable food bank, as you suggest. However, she is confronted with potential tax deduction limits based upon her income. Or, she might not have enough deductions to itemize. These circumstances are noted in the article for CPA exam students at Fast Forward Academy blog. Fortunately, tax advantages await the giver of a large non-cash charitable donation who seeks advice from a CPA or Enrolled Agent tax expert.

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