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<Any runners/walkers out there? I'm a newbie to this racing thing. The web site for the race indicates it is a benefit for the local food bank. Nowhere can I find how much (if any) of the registration fee goes to the food bank.>

Pretty much every race is for the benefit of a charity. Some of them benefit formal charities while many others are designed to help out a particular person or family in dire need. I would guess that part of your entry fee could be deductable, but you would probably have to offset that with any benefit you receive. It is probably like sending a $100 donation to PBS and getting a DVD, CD and a totebag back from them. The costs of what you get back should be deducted from your original contribution.

Most of the better races have nice refreshments afterwards. All of the races give you a T-shirt(some of them give you a long sleeve shirt or even a nice collared shirt). Many of them give you a goody bag with various products inside them. A fair number have drawings after the race for various prizes (gift certificates for dinner or shopping, etc) based on your bib number. In November the Turkey Trot races often give away certificates for free turkeys to a 100 or more runners. Some have given away free airline tickets or stays at a resort. It all depends on how successful the race is run over the years.

The various sponsors of each race usually donate their time and/or money to cover the expenses so that more of the funds raised go directly to the designated charity. I suspect that the corporate sponsors may already be taking a deduction for any direct expenses they incur related to the event. I don't know if it could be considered double dipping if a corporate sponsor and an individual try to deduct the same expense. The donation of these products and services is what allows the event planners to be able to give the lions share of the proceeds to the chosen charity. The ones that run these events are not accountants.

Some years back I used to participate in 20-30 races a year. While I itemize every year, I have never bothered deducting any of these costs unless I made a separate donation to the charity. That is not to say you couldn't or shouldn't do so. At $15-25 a race, the costs will add up if you enter a lot of races. However, if your deductable portion turns out to be a half or a third of your entry fee, you would have to weigh how much your time is worth to document each race after the fact. Your actual savings would only be the deductable amount times your marginal tax rate. I would say that most organizers are very informal in their record keeping, but it may be worthwhile to you to ask one how the process works for them. Their primary goal is to get as many runners or walkers as they can thereby raising as much money as they can for the local charity. These races are not run as a for profit venture.

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