SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Whether it’s text donations, celebrity telethons, or gifts of food and clothing, Americans’ generous giving and support to relief efforts in Haiti has been front and center in the headlines. To make the most of your earthquake relief donations and take advantage of the special tax breaks freshly enacted by Congress, consider these tips provided by the American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches, Inc. You can deduct up to 50% of your adjusted gross income for cash gifts to public charities working for earthquake victims. But you’ll need a written receipt if you give more than $250.
To be sure the organization you are helping qualifies under the IRS charitable deduction rules, be sure to check that the organization is a registered 501(c)(3) group. You may verify an organization’s tax-exempt status and eligibility to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions by asking to see an organization’s IRS letter recognizing it as tax-exempt. You may also confirm an organization’s status by calling the IRS (toll-free) at 1-877-829-5500.
Gifts of clothing, furniture, electronics, and household items are deductible at fair-market value, such as the price they would bring at a resale shop. Consider buying software, available at any office-supply store, for tracking your gifts and determining their value. You might be surprised how much tax you save!
And if you’re looking for ways to lower your 2009 tax bill, consider the new legislation passed by Congress letting you take a 2009 deduction for contributions of cash on behalf of earthquake relief you contribute now. All cash donations provided by March 1, 2010 are deductible on your 2009 tax return – allowing you to collect your savings now, rather than waiting until next year for tax relief.
That new law also eases recordkeeping requirements for such “accelerated” donations, especially for those you make by phone. If you give by text message, for example, your phone bill satisfies the new requirements if it shows the name of the donee organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
As always, the IRS and Better Business Bureau caution you to seek out qualified charities. And make sure you’re working with a qualified tax professional to advise you on how to best use your generosity to bring tax relief to your return this tax season.
For more information on working with a Certified Tax Coach, visit www.certifiedtaxcoach.com .