Charitable Donations

Overview
Generally, you can deduct contributions of money or property you make to, or for the use of, a qualified organization. A contribution is “for the use of” a qualified organization when it is held in a legally enforceable trust for the qualified organization or in a similar legal arrangement.

The contributions must be made to a qualified organization and not set aside for use by a specific person.

If you give property to a qualified organization, you generally can deduct the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution.

Your deduction for charitable contributions generally cannot be more than 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but in some cases 20% and 30% limits may apply. In addition, the total of your charitable contributions deduction and certain other itemized deductions may be limited.

Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions
Charitable contributions made to qualified organizations may help lower your tax bill. The IRS has put together the following eight tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

1. If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.
2. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.
3. If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
5. Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.
6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
8. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

Substantiating Charitable Contributions
Many charitable organizations are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Most eligible organizations are listed in Exempt Organizations Select Check (Pub 78 database).

A charitable organization must provide a written disclosure statement to donors of a quid pro quo contribution in excess of $75. A quid pro quo contribution is a payment made to a charity by a donor partly as a contribution and partly for goods or services provided to the donor by the charity. For example, if a donor gives a charity $100 and receives a concert ticket valued at $40, the donor has made a quid pro quo contribution. In this example, the charitable contribution portion of the payment is $60. Even though the part of the payment available for deduction does not exceed $75, a disclosure statement must be filed because the donor’s payment (quid pro quo contribution) exceeds $75.

The required written disclosure statement must:
1. Inform the donor that the amount of the contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the excess of any money (and the value of any property other than money) contributed by the donor over the value of goods or services provided by the charity, and
2. Provide the donor with a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services that the donor received.

The charity must furnish the statement in connection with either the solicitation or the receipt of the quid pro quo contribution. If the disclosure statement is furnished in connection with a particular solicitation, it is not necessary for the organization to provide another statement when the associated contribution is actually received.

How to check whether an organization can receive deductible charitable contributions.
You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization, and most will be able to tell you. Or go to IRS.gov. Click on “Tools” and then on “Exempt Organizations Select Check” (www.irs.gov/Charities&NonProfits/ExemptOrganizationsSelectCheck).

This online tool will enable you to search for qualified organizations. You can also call the IRS to find out if an organization is qualified. Call 1-877-829-5500.

References/Related Topics

  • Publication 526, Charitable Contributions
  • Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.
  • Tax Information for Contributors
  • Youtube – Tax Tips – Choosing a Tax Preparer
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