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Tips on Deducting Charitable Contributions

IRS Tax Tip 2014-39, March 24, 2014

If you are looking for a tax deduction, giving to charity can be a ‘win-win’ situation. It’s good for them and good for you. Here are eight things you should know about deducting your gifts to charity:

  1. You must donate to a qualified charity if you want to deduct the gift. You can’t deduct gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates.

  2. In order for you to deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return.

  3. If you get a benefit in return for your contribution, your deduction is limited. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that’s more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of such benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

  4. If you give property instead of cash, the deduction is usually that item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market.

  5. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

  6. You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, if your deduction for all noncash gifts is more than $500 for the year.

  7. You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you make during the year. The kind of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation. For example, you must have a written record of any cash you donate, regardless of the amount, in order to claim a deduction. It can be a cancelled check, a letter from the organization, or a bank or payroll statement. It should include the name of the charity, the date and the amount donated. A cell phone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.

  8. To claim a deduction for donated cash or property of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the organization. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

For more details, see Publications 526, Charitable Contributions and 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. Forms and publications are available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 21-Mar-2014