A guide to year-end donations to charitable organizations
If you are planning to make year-end gifts to charity, the Internal Revenue Service wants you to be aware that there are important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years.
The first involves charitable clothing and household item contributions. Clothing and household items — such as furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens — must be in good used condition to be tax-deductible. Clothing or household item donations for which you claim a deduction of more than $500 does not have to meet this standard if you include a qualified appraisal of the item(s) with your tax return. You must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all gifts worth $250 or more. Make sure it includes, among other things, a description of the items contributed.
Making a cash donation? You must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity in order to deduct any donation of money, regardless of the amount. The record must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of your contribution.
Bank records can include canceled checks, and bank, credit union and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date of the donation, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.
For payroll deductions, retain your pay stub, a W-2 form wage statement or a document furnished by your employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
You should receive written confirmation from a charity for each deductible donation — either money or property — of $250 or more. And don’t forget: Only donations to eligible charitable organizations are tax-deductible. Select Check, a searchable online tool available on IRS.gov, lists most organizations that are eligible to receive deductible contributions. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations even if they are not listed in the tool’s database.
It’s important to note that contributions are deductible in the year made. That means that donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2015 count for the tax year 2015, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2016. Also, checks count for 2015 as long as they are mailed in 2015.