There is a little-known disaster provision of the tax code that, where if an employer has adopted a leave-based donation program, the employees can forgo paid vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for their employer making equivalent cash payments to qualified charitable organizations. This does not necessarily mean the employee also forfeits the time off; it will not be paid time off to the extent it is converted to leave-based donation payments.
Employer leave-based donation payments made by an employer before January 1, 2023, to a qualified U.S. charitable organization to aid victims of the further Russian invasion of Ukraine will not be treated as gross income or wages (or compensation, as applicable) of the employees of the employer. Thus, the employee will not be taxed on the vacation, sick, or personal leave pay given up, but since it is not taxable the employee cannot also deduct it as a charitable contribution.
Employers can deduct the contribution and avoid the employer share of payroll taxes that would otherwise be due on paid employee vacation, sick, or personal leave. From the employee’s viewpoint, they also avoid their share of payroll taxes as well as the income taxes they would have had to pay on the forgone income.
This opens a tremendous opportunity for employees to be able to donate to Ukrainian relief efforts. Employees wishing to participate need to check with their employer to see if the employer is participating in this voluntary program.