Charitable donations?

Ok, so i get folks every year who say things like – oh, and don’t forget to put me down for the standard $500 charitable donation on my taxes.  Of course i ask the obvious question: so, who did you give what to?  their response: well, i don’t know, Goodwill and some household goods, who cares, the IRS doesn’t question anything under $500.

I’m not actually sure what IRS they are talking about, but the one i know cares quite a bit.  So much so, that they published a list of six tips for year-end-giving on their website:

and i’ll add a few of my own observations here.

1)  before insisting that those 5 year old faded jeans with the small hole in the knee are worth $25, check out what the Salvation Army and Goodwill show as valuations for various items here: and here.

2) Before tossing everything in the back of the truck or in the trunk and running it to the nearest donation center, take pictures – of everything – individually (not everything in a big pile) so that, in the event that you ever DO get audited, you can prove that those excellent condition Levi’s were actually in excellent condition when you donated them! (note: plan on keeping these pictures with your taxes – if you come to our tax office with the digital pictures, i’ll add them to the flash drive with your taxes and original documents – that way you will always have them right where they should be)

3) Donating a car, boat or plane means you have to wait for the charity to sell it or put it into service and send you a receipt for the amount they sold it for, or for the amount they had it appraised for.  No, you can’t donate your 2004 Chevy Cavalier and deduct the full sticker price that was on it when you bought it!

4) finally, yes, you CAN charge a donation in late December and deduct it on your taxes, even though you haven’t paid the credit card company – see, it isn’t ALL bad news here!