Taxpayers who make cash contributions on or before April 15 to charities providing relief for the families of two slain New York police officers can receive an immediate tax benefit by choosing to claim a charitable contribution deduction on their 2014 federal income tax returns, according to the IRS.

The new special legislation permits taxpayers to choose to treat certain contributions made on or after Jan. 1, 2015, and before midnight on April 15 as if made on Dec. 31, 2014.

This provision applies only to cash contributions to charities to provide assistance to the families of New York Police Department Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were shot to death in a December ambush.

Ordinarily, charitable contribution deductions may only be claimed in the year in which the contribution is made. Under the special provision, deductions for contributions to assist the families made between the above dates may be claimed on either a 2014 or 2015 return, but not both.

Deductions for contributions made before Jan. 1 may only be claimed on a 2014 return and those made after April 15 may only be claimed on a 2015 return. Only individuals who itemize deductions can take a charitable deduction for these contributions. Those who claim the standard deduction, including all short-form filers, are ineligible.

The Slain Officer Family Support Act of 2015, enacted April 1, does not apply to contributions of property. In addition, gifts made directly to any individual are not tax-deductible. Although charities generally cannot accept and distribute donations earmarked for particular individuals, another provision of the special legislation generally allows charities to do so in this case if the funds are distributed to the officers' families on or before Oct. 15.

Contributions by text message, check, credit card, debit card, e-funds transfer or PayPal qualify as cash donations for purposes of this rule. Donations charged to a credit card before midnight on April 15 are eligible contributions even if the credit card bill isn't paid until after that date. Donations by check are eligible if mailed by April 15.

IRS Publication 526 has further details on making gifts to charity, including the recordkeeping rules for cash contributions.

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