Let's talk taxes

Tis the season to be giving

Karen V. White / Community CorrespondentNovember 1, 2012 

Face it, you've been putting it off all year. Maybe you have to turn sideways to get in the storage room or have given up on parking your car in the garage. Well, it's the end of the year and now you have a big incentive to clean out all that stuff. You could get a tax deduction for it.

If you itemize your deductions (use Schedule A), Uncle Sam will give you a bonus -- a deduction on your tax return for donating all those goodies to a charity. This could result in a larger refund for you, but there are a few simple rules you must follow to benefit from this tax break.

First, the charity must be recognized as an exempt charitable entity. Qualifying are churches, schools, Red Cross, AMVETS, Scouts, Salvation Army, Disabled American Vets and public libraries to name a few. If in doubt, ask the organization or check the IRS website at IRS.gov. Second, make sure you get a receipt from the charity for the donation. You'll need it as proof of your donation. If your total non-cash donations are less than $500, you can list the amount on Schedule A. If more than $500, you are required to attach Form 8283 with the following information:

Make a list of the items you are donating to attach to your receipt. Keep this receipt with your records -- do not send it in. Form 8283 asks for date of purchase and the date of the gift, the name of the charity and a list of the items donated. Additionally, you must indicate how you determined fair market value. Cost is what you originally paid for the items and value is what you could have sold it for at a thrift shop or garage sale.

Your tax preparer should have a valuation form to help you with this process. Think of all those kitchen appliances no longer used, old toys the kids have outgrown, clothes that don't fit or are out of date, books, tools, games, furniture and anything else you no longer want.

It is fairly easy to rack up $1,000 in fair market value resulting in an additional refund of $250 if you are in the 25% tax bracket.

Remember that clothing must be in above average condition -- no old socks, underwear and soiled clothes you used for painting. So, get busy -- get rid of the extra stuff, simplify your life and enjoy that larger refund.

-- Karen White is an enrolled agent, licensed by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals. She is a partner with Oakhurst certified public accounting firm, Miller & White.

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