Donating Boats To Charity
What You Need To Know

IRS publication 4303, A Donor’s Guide To Vehicle Donation, states that qualifying ‘vehicles’ for donations to charity may include boats.

In effect, the rules are the same for car donation and if you have a boat you are ready to donate to charity, we have provided all the relevant information you require on this page including links to our specific state-by-state donation guide where the rules regarding titling and boat registration are often different.

1. Documents You Need To Donate a Boat?

Unlike motor vehicles the titling and registration requirements for boats are not only less stringent but also vary from state to state.

Usually, the larger the boat, the more likely it is you will have the title.  This, of course, needs to be transferred to the charity upon donation.

Hull Identification Numbers

If the boat is titled you will need to know its HIN (Hull Identification Number) which is usually found on the boat’s title documents and on the starboard side of the vessel.

We advise you to consult our state-by-state guide to car donation where you will find links to all relevant DMV websites in the United States.

You should be able to find the information you require or contact an official who will be able to advise you accordingly.

2. What Types of Boat Can You Donate?

There is no restriction on the type of boat or water vessel that you are able to donate.  The most important thing for the charity is its sale value.

You can, therefore, donate sail boats, jet skis, speed or motor boats, yachts, ships, fishing boats and even boat trailers.

3. Can You Donate ‘Junk’ Boats?

In short, yes you can.

In some cases, your chosen charity may assess the boat and decide that it is worth repairing in order to achieve a greater value.  One such charity is Boats With Causes which provide some excellent examples on their website of sea-faring vessels they have repaired and sold at considerably higher prices.

This boat was transformed after 3 weeks of repairs with the charity earning $9900

The advantage for you as the donor, is that you can claim a higher tax deduction.

4. Maximizing Your Boat Donation Tax Deduction

Given the potential for increasing your boat’s value through repair, it is worth finding charities that specialize in this type of donation.

They are likely to have the resources as well as the experts and engineers who will be able to carry out any repairs that may significantly enhance the boat’s value.

Can You Claim Fair Market Value?

In normal circumstances, without this repair service, your boat would be sold at auction to the  highest bidder.  You boat donation tax deduction would be the amount of the sale value.

You may not realize that if the boat is actually used by your selected charity for what the IRS defines as a ‘significant period’ in the course of its own fundraising activities, you may be able to claim the its true market value against your tax return.

When you donate a car to charity, the same applies if the charity gives or sells the vehicle to a needy individual at a below market price.  There are obviously fewer justifiable circumstances where this would apply in the case of a boat donation, but the same rules would apply if it were the case.

5. Where To Donate Your Boat In The USA

You can donate your boat anywhere in the United States.

Most qualifying section 501(c)(3) charities will accept your donation providing that the costs of towage, transport and/or repair do not exceed the likely sale value of the vessel.

For more precise information about how to donate your boat in your state, please consult our individual state by state pages below.  Additionally, read our separate page on whether donating your boat to charity is right for you or not.

6. How To Maximize What Your Charity Gets?

As explained above, the best outcome for both you as the donor and the charity as the donee is the highest sale’s price possible.

Given that the likelihood of being able to claim the boat’s fair market value by taking advantage of the IRS’ gross proceeds rules, you are advised to seek charities that do not mind investing in your boat to ultimately help themselves.

In doing so, they help you as a higher sales price achieved at the charity boat auction helps to maximize your boat donation tax write-off.


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