What to Donate and Who Should Do It

Giving-to-charity2If your parent leaves a specific item to charity under his or her will, the deduction should be taken on his or her estate tax return. If not, that personal property will pass to the heirs as beneficiaries. When they donate the property to one or more qualified charitable organizations, they can take the deduction for charitable contribution on their personal income tax return.

A recent post on New Jersey 101.5's website, "Red flags to avoid when  donating to charity," cautions that when you're looking for a worthy cause for a donation, be certain that it's a "qualified exempt organization" per the IRS, which has a list of these charities on its website.

Remember that charitable contributions are deductible only as itemized deductions. If the donation is for non-cash contributions to a qualified charity valued at more than $500, you must also fill out and attach Form 8283 with your return to the IRS. Typically, if the value of the donated property for which you plan to claim a deduction is greater than $5,000—or if the deduction for any one item is greater than $500, you need to have a qualified appraiser's report. If you don't have this, the deduction will be based on the estimated fair market value of the property.

Fair market value may be based on the current sale price of comparable items, based on the age and condition of the property and on the similarity of the compared and donated items. The fair market value of ordinary household goods and clothing is usually much less than the original purchase price. Some organizations, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, provide a donation value guide that lists common items donated and the average value.

Be precise with your records of the donation. If you are donating household items or clothing, the items have to be in "good used condition." You can't donate that old plaid sofa in the basement—the one that no one would ever use—just to get it out of the house.

If the amount you are donating to one organization is more than $250, you'll need a written receipt itemizing the items and the values—and even with donations less than $250, it's a good idea to get an itemized written receipt.

Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (January 2, 2016) "Red flags to avoid when donating to charity"

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