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October 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Tax-Deductible Dive Trip

but too good to be true

from the October, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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When the travel agency Island Dreams announced a Cuba dive trip in September 2016 aboard the Jardines Aggressor I, Jeanne Reeder, a diver based in Liberty, MO, quickly signed up. After spending time in Havana, the 20-person group would spend a week diving in the Jardines de la Reina, notable for its Goliath groupers, sharks and saltwater crocodiles. Even better, divers were told they could get a tax deduction of $3,500 on their trip expenses. That's because the trip was organized by Oceans for Youth Foundation, a USA-based not-for-profit that, per its website, "encourages underwater education for everyone from youth to adults."

A trip that combines great diving with a good cause -- sounds perfect, right? Maybe not if the cause is run by the same people who run the liveaboard and who, even after incorporating the nonprofit 18 years ago, apparently haven't met all the IRS standards for being a legitimate charitable organization.

In her trip report, Reeder detailed how she enjoyed the trip, and gave top marks to the Jardines Aggressor staff (except that they dumped raw sewage into the ocean). But she could never shake the feeling that the trip wasn't meeting the standards of being an educational dive trip.

"I didn't feel like I was doing charitable work," Reeder told us. "There were two great REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) fish counters, and they worked their tails off. But the rest of us, we didn't do anything. We had a wonderful lecture one morning, but that was the only education we got. This was basically a pleasure trip."...

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