This is a tax law question.

I portray Mark Twain in a one-man performance I conceived, wrote (predominantly based on Twain's words, of course), and "direct."

I would be willing to appear at times to raise money for "charity," IOW without charging for my performance. Is it legal (according to the IRS) to count these gratis performances as "contributions" that I could thus subtract from my income so as to reduce my tax burden?

If so, what do I need from these organizations for which I provide a free performance? Would it be a document that says, in effect, "Clay Shannon donated $___ to us by providing his performance free of charge" (where the monetary amount is the amount of their ticket sales) or what?

A side question is, can I require these organizations to pay my expenses (travel, lodging, meal[s]) so that I need pay nothing out of pocket to provide the performance, or would these costs have to be borne by me and only be deductible as a further charitable contribution?

2 Answers 2


You can do it either way, just remember that the amount you can deduct is (in this case, there are some exceptions not relevant here) what you paid for something, not what it's worth. So you can deduct your travel expenses if you paid them, your materials costs if you paid them, and so on. You cannot deduct any expenses the charity paid for nor can you deduct the value of your labor, since you didn't pay anything for it.

  • Thanks, that makes sense. So if the charity pays my expenses (but nothing for the performance) I can deduct nothing. OTOH, I only lose my time, which I won't mind if it's a charity I want to support. Oct 26, 2016 at 15:59
  • @B.ClayShannon That's correct. If the charity covers all your expenses (including travel and supplies) then all you've donated is your time, which didn't cost you anything so gets you no deduction. Oct 26, 2016 at 16:01

It doesn't work that way. You can't say "this performance was worth $500, so I deduct $500 from taxes". You could say "this performance was worth $500, so I had $500 income on which I would have to pay taxes, but I donated that performance, so I didn't have any income, so I don't need to pay taxes". That of course would be rather pointless (from the point of tax savings, but nice of you to help a charity).

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