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Charitable Giving: Guidelines for Tax Deduction of Charitable Gifts

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Did you know that according to the most recent studies of charitable giving in the United States 65% of households give to charity?[1]  In 2011, Americans gave $298.3 billion to charities.[2]  The average annual household contribution was $2,212, while the mean was $870.[3]  Americans are extremely charitable, and our citizens consistently rank among the most generous worldwide.

The organizations to which donations are made are very diverse.  In 2011, 32% of charitable donations went to religious organizations, 13% went to education, 12% to human services, and 9% to grant-making organizations. [4]

Donations of cash, investments, and property to charity can be deductible.  We encourage those considering charitable gifts to consult with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and tax professional prior to making donations.  The IRS provides the following guidelines to those planning to claim charitable deductions on tax returns:

  • Charitable contributions are deductible only if deductions are itemized on Form 1040, Schedule A.
  • To qualify for a deduction, contributions must be made to qualified organizations.  Gifts to individuals are never deductible.  The IRS offers a helpful tool on their website that allows individuals to check the status of the organization they are considering for donations.  Find it here: review Exempt Organizations Select Check
  • If the giver receives services, goods, admissions or other valuable benefits from a donation, only the portion of the contribution that exceeds what is received by the individual is deductible.  A common example is the silent auction.
  • Monetary gifts of any value must have a written record, including the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount.
  • Gifts of property valued above $250 must have a written acknowledgement from the receiving organization explaining the amount of the contribution and describing the property given.  See Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, for additional details.
  • Form 8283 must be attached to the tax return if the deduction claimed for non-cash property is valued at greater than $500.  If a deduction is claimed for non-cash property that is worth $5,000 or less, Section A on form 8283 must be completed. If a deduction for a contribution of non-cash property worth more than $5,000 is claimed, the taxpayer must obtain a qualified appraisal of the noncash property and must fill out Form 8283, Section B.  If a taxpayer claims a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $500,000, the qualified appraisal report must be attached to the tax return.[5]

For additional information on charitable contributions, refer to IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

[1] The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
[2] Giving USA 2012
[3] The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
[4] Giving USA 2012
[5] http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.html


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