Give a Little and Get a Little with Charitable Tax Deductions

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.

When you donate to your favorite charity, make sure to let the tax agency know. Charitable tax deductions are readily and legitimately available to you. Your contributions to charitable organizations can add up to a sizeable deduction when you itemize them on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.

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.

Not all charitable donations are tax deductible. For example, donations made to political organizations, political leaders or individuals will not realize a tax break. And, even though time is money, you cannot claim a deduction for the time that you spend holding raffles or raising money at bingo or casino games.

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.

Donated vehicles can also net you a sizeable tax deduction. Automobiles, airplanes and boats can all be donated to charity in exchange for a tax break. The amount of the deduction will be based on the vehicle’s resale value at the time of your donation, so be sure to have a proper appraisal before you donate. One important point to remember is that if the value of the vehicle exceeds $500 and the charity in turn sells the vehicle, the amount of your tax credit will be limited to the gross proceeds of the sale.

Your donation of personal and household items can also realize a tax break. The value of the item is based on the amount that you would receive if you sold it at a garage sale or flea market. In other words, if you have an antique desk that’s valued at $500 at a second hand shop, you may be able to claim a tax credit of $500 should you choose to donate the desk to a recognized charity. Keep in mind that all charitable donations valued at over $250 require a proper receipt.

Whether you choose to donate cash or merchandise to your favorite charity, remember that only contributions made during the current tax year will qualify for a deduction. You cannot carry these amounts over to subsequent tax years, even if you have a credit card or bank account statement showing your contribution. The tax deduction is available only in the year that the donation was made.

It’s true that it’s better to give than to receive, but it doesn’t hurt to get a little back. Keep a list of your charitable donations, and claim them at the end of the tax year. Consider it your just reward.

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