When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Your donations could add up to a sizeable tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.
Here are a few tips to ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return:
• You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates. Nor can you deduct the value of your time or services and the cost of raffles, bingo or other games of chance.
• To be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified organizations.
• Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible.
• To be deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity after Aug. 17, 2006, must be in good used condition or better. However, a taxpayer may claim a deduction of more than $500 for any single item, regardless of its condition, if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, and linens.
• If your contributions entitle you to merchandise, goods or services, including admission to a charity ball, banquet, theatrical performance or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
• Donations of stock or other property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property.
• Special rules apply to donation of vehicles.
• For a charitable contribution of $250 or more, you can claim a deduction only if you obtain a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization.
• If you claim a deduction on your return of more than $500 for all contributed property, you must attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
• 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 requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.
Reminder of the New 2007 Guidelines for Monetary Donations
To deduct any charitable donation of money, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. A bank record includes canceled checks, bank or credit union statements and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity and the date and amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity and the transaction posting date.
Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card, and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity. Prior law allowed taxpayers to back up their donations of money with personal bank registers, diaries or notes made around the time of the donation. Those types of records are no longer sufficient.
This provision applies to contributions made in taxable years beginning after Aug. 17, 2006. For taxpayers that file returns on a calendar-year basis, including most individuals, the new provision applies to contributions made beginning in 2007.
The new law does not change the prior-law requirement that a taxpayer get an acknowledgement from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet the requirements of both provisions.