Why no tax deduction for blood/tissue donation

I purchase blood products from the blood center (for research!) several times a week and have been for the better part of 20 years.

Ha ha. I thought the same thing, but realized what you meant.

I think in broad strokes you are suggesting that people who will like to get money by donating blood are likely to have a high personal discount rate. They are short-term thinkers, and lying to get $100 in their pockets right now is one thing, but lying in advance to get that payoff when April rolls around is a lot less likely.

But I think there are enough people who would convince themselves that their blood is safe enough, those fuddy-duddies at the Red Cross are just playing too safe…

People (including those unknowingly carrying blood-borne diseases) respond to incentives.

Stop to think about it. You could get paid for your work, then donate the cash back. If you get the full deduction, you’re in the same position as if you worked for free and got no deduction. Actually many people would be worse off because they take the standard deduction or because they are in the range where deductions phase out.

They do. Or at least, some places do.

To be clear, when you get a coupon for free ice cream when donating blood, that doesn’t mean that the Red Cross is buying everyone ice cream. Rather, the ice cream shop gave the blood donor center a pile of those coupons. They do this at least partly because they want to be good and encourage people to do something good, but also partly (probably, mostly) because they reckon it’s good for business to have a few people coming in for free ice cream, who might bring a friend with them who buys one at full price, or who might like it so much that they come back on another day and pay full price.

And for the same reason, a lot of places will give away freebies to people who have voted. They don’t usually do it via coupons, though: More often, they say “Show your I Voted sticker to get…”.

The main reason you cannot deduct the value of services provided as a charitable contribution is that it would mean that you would also have to recognize the income from those services, negating the deduction. I would believe the same is true for blood. Everything else that you have that you donate as non-cash was either purchased in a transaction with after-tax funds, or was given as a nontaxable gift. At best you can say that some of the atoms of the blood were created from the sustenance that you purchased with after-tax funds (or funds from some nontaxable source like food stamps) so you might try to assign some basis to that blood, but a lot of them came from the atmosphere and the work of arranging those atoms into something useful is where the real value in the blood lies. Plus, how the hell are you going to be able to account for what you ate turning into parts of your blood? Thus, by general double-entry accounting principles, if you wanted to deduct the value of that product, the offsetting entry could only be to recognize income in the same amount, as there was no asset on your “books” (income that was taxed or specified as from a tax-free income source) prior to the donation being given up nor was any liability being incurred.

So long as you would be taxed on the income if you sold the blood, so too can you not deduct the value of donating it.

Yes, there are a lot of very high-margin businesses that will gladly give away their product, or offer deep discounts, only in situations that are by their nature extremely infrequent, just as an advertisement. This also is the source of free desserts (or even meals) on your birthday at most restaurants. They are trying to get you (or people you talk to about the incident) hooked on their product, and it costs them very little to provide it to you.