The closer details of charitable deductions on taxes only matter if a person is itemizing deductions on their tax filings. If so, you are able to deduct contributions up to 50% of your adjusted gross income when they are made to qualifying 501(c3) entity or other qualifying organization. Some organization types only qualify for a 30% limitation private foundations, others qualify for a 60% limitation (federal government units).
If you’re concerned with the tax-deductible status of your donations, you may request verification from the charity of your choice (ask to see a copy of their latest IRS 990 or a copy of their IRS 501(c)3 determination letter). You can also use irs.gov or guidestar.org to search for documentation.
What can and can’t be deducted?
In order for a donation to be deducted, it needs to be truly charitable. No goods or services can be received in exchange for the donation that is considered tax-deductible.
If you attend a charity dinner and paid $500 for your ticket, you’ll need to find out how much was spent on the meal and beverages you received because you are only allowed to deduct the amount that exceeds the cost of your event attendance. Similarly, charity concerts, golf outings, and auctions are all types of events when your full donation amount may not count toward your charitable donation. You may pay $500 to play in a charity golf outing but find out that the charity spent $300 per player for gifts and greens fees. In this case, you would only be able to deduct $200, not the entire $500 you spent.
It is up to you and your accountant to determine this amount by coordinating with the charity. If the charity is doing their job correctly, they will make it easy for you by adding it to the gift acknowledgement. For example, it should read: “$100 contributed. $60 total deductible donation after receipt of goods and services.”
Do people need to keep track of receipts?
Everyone should keep careful track of charitable contribution receipts, just as they would any other household or business expenses. Most nonprofits have a donor database system to keep records on gifts though and should be able to print you a new one should you lose yours. Some nonprofits will mail out a statement of giving around January or February each year which will include a complete history of your giving for the year – this document can be used for accounting purposes in place of the receipts of each individual gift you made to them that year.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors Featured in Cheapism Article on "How to Get Tax Breaks Through Charitable Donations"
GET TO GIVING
As the clock winds down on 2018, many people are scurrying to make their final charitable donations of the year and tally up ones already made. In 2017, Americans gave $410 billion to charities, an increase of five percent over the previous year. For those looking for ways to make the most of charitable donations before the end of the tax year, here are some tips and insights from experts around the country.
KNOW THE NEW TAX LAWS
Under the new tax laws recently adopted, the standard deduction for filers has roughly doubled. It’s now $12,000 for single filers, $18,000 for head of household, and $24,000 for joint filers. Those increases will likely have a profound impact on people’s interest in making charitable donations. “If you’re taking the standard deductions, you cannot itemize,” explains Mark Charnet, founder and CEO of American Prosperity Group. “That’s going to horribly dissuade people from making charitable donations. Unless they itemize on their taxes, they will not get a reduction on their tax bill for the charitable contributions and therefore will be disincentivized to make donations.”
KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CAN DEDUCT
The law generally allows for deducting contributions up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income, when such contributions are made to qualifying 501 (c)(3) entity or other qualifying organization, explains Caitlin Worm of Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors in South Bend, Indiana. “Some organization types only qualify for a 30% limitation, such as private foundations, while others qualify for a 60% limitation, such as federal government units,” says Worm.
RESEARCH WHERE YOUR MONEY WILL GO
If you’re planning to donate to a non-profit organization, otherwise known as a 501(c)(3), find out how your contribution will be used. How much will go toward the cause and how much goes toward administration? A variety of third-party evaluation and ratings sites can help with this effort, such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch, which review a charity’s finances, governance and effectiveness. “Better ratings will indicate that the organization allows for the majority of the donations to go right to the cause,” says Jacob Dayan of Community Tax.
Many people wonder if their volunteer time at a charity completing professional tasks can be deducted on their taxes. You cannot deduct the value of services rendered in volunteer service to a nonprofit. You can, however, deduct the expenses you incurred while volunteering or traveling to and from the volunteer assignment.
Example 1 - The Artist:
An artist who paints a mural on the wall of her local local Boys & Girls Club can deduct the cost of paint, paint brushes, and other supplies needed to complete the mural. She can also deduct the gas mileage it took to get to and from the charity to complete the volunteer service. She cannot deduct for the time it spent her.
Example 2 - The Nurse:
A Red Cross volunteer who is a Registered Nurse travels to Florida to help with hurricane disaster relief recovery. He can save the receipts for his airfare, lodging, and meals while on assignment. He cannot calculate the hours he spent working as a nurse for Red Cross and deduct the pay he would have been paid in his workplace.
Always consult with your tax advisor to be certain.
Many people wonder if it makes sense to donate property, cars, or other valuable items to charities in order to receive a tax donation.
Nonprofits are chronically short on cash and always in pursuit of seeking full sustainability. Of course, most charities will accept donations of all kinds but sometimes donations can be more of a hassle than the net benefit. There are horror stories of benefactors donating property, jewelry, art, or cars to a nonprofit where it took more staff time to sell and manage the goods than they received in net contributions. Make sure your donation will be an easy and manageable transaction.
If a charity uses your property, car, art, or valuable items to carry out their programs and services, you may be able to deduct the full “Fair Market Value.” However, you may need an official, written appraisal. If the property, cars, or valuable items are worth more than $5,000 you will need a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser.
On the other hand, if the charity sells your property, car, or valuable items for less than your appraised value, you may only deduct the amount the item was sold for, not the pre-determined market value. Example: If you donate a car to Boys & Girls Club for the estimated value of $3,500 in August but they were only able to sell it for $3,000 in December – then you can only deduct the final sale value of $3,000.
Veer over to the IRS website to learn more before making your big donation:
A Donor's Guide to Donating a Car
Determining the Value of Donated Property
Feel free to reach out to us if you have additional questions or need us to translate some of the IRS technical language. We're also happy to review your pledge and give you guidance on the best course of action.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.