Giving to charity is a good feeling, and most people give freely without expecting anything in return. Even the most generous contributors will agree, however, that a break at tax time turns that good feeling into a great one.
In the United States, all tax deductions should be itemized on your IRS Form 1040, Schedule A. Make sure that you ask for a receipt for every charitable donation that you make, and keep an itemized list. Your contributions to charitable organizations can eventually add up to a sizeable deduction.
Donating to charity is easy to do, but it does carry certain risks. The tax agencies will only grant tax deductions for contributions made to recognized organizations. Check to see if the organization is recognized by the tax agency before you make your donation. Look for the IRS Publication 78 for a full list of recognized charitable organizations. You can find this list at your local library, and it’s also available online. Take the time to research, and be sure that your money is truly going to a worthy cause.
If you’re looking for a tax break for donations made to an individual person, a politician or a political organization, you’re out of luck. No tax benefits are available for these types of gifts. Additionally, you cannot claim a deduction for the time that you spend raising funds through activities such as raffles, casino games or bingo.
It is possible to claim a tax deduction for a contribution of goods, merchandise or services. These types of donations, known as “gifts in kind”, can be claimed at fair market value. If, for example, you choose to donate company stocks, you can claim the value of the donated stocks. The value is calculated as an average of the highest and lowest traded prices on the valuation date.
That old car in the driveway is another potential moneymaker. Get an appraisal of the vehicle, and you will be able to claim a tax deduction for the car’s market value at the time of your donation. Planes and boats may also be donated to charity for a tax deduction. Keep in mind that if the claimed value of the donated vehicle, boat or airplane exceeds $500, and the charitable organization sells the item, your tax deduction will be limited to the gross sale proceeds.
If you are donating a household or personal item, a deduction can be claimed on the amount that the item would have fetched at a garage sale or at a flea shop. To qualify for a tax deduction, a proper receipt is required for all charitable contributions over $250.
Be sure to claim your tax deduction in the same year that you make your donation. It doesn’t matter if you have a check or credit card statement that proves your donation. If it’s from a previous year, you won’t be able to claim the donation. These amounts cannot be carried over to a new tax year.
Even if you don’t expect to get anything in return for your goodwill, go ahead and keep a list of your charitable donations. The taxman will appreciate and reward your generosity.