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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Springer

Charitable Contributions Guide

From fables to yearly holiday commercials, the charitable spirit lives strong! The tough part is knowing if the gift you're giving might help you with your taxes. We've gathered many of the common questions and a few specifics to help you know if the good you are doing in the world might make its way back to you via your yearly tax return.

Charitable workers packing boxes of donated items

What Is a Charitable Organization?

Qualified charitable organizations include nonprofit groups that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific, or literary in purpose, or that work to prevent cruelty to children or animals.


Here are some examples of qualified and nonqualified organizations:

​Qualified

Nonqualified

  • Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and other religious organizations.

  • Boy and Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Red Cross, CARE, Goodwill, Salvation Army, United Way.

  • Fraternal orders, if gifts used for qualified charitable purposes.

  • War veterans’ groups.

  • Nonprofit schools, colleges, museums, hospitals, and organizations trying to find medical cures.

  • Federal, state, and local governments, if gifts are solely for public purposes, including nonprofit volunteer fire departments, and public parks facilities.

  • ​Country clubs, lodges, fraternal orders, and similar groups, unless they are a qualified charity.

  • Civic leagues, social and sports clubs, labor unions, and chambers of commerce.

  • Political organizations and candidates.

  • Foreign organizations. Exceptions: Contributions to certain Canadian, Israeli, and Mexican charities are deductible. See IRS Publication 526.

  • Homeowner’s associations.

Still not sure? The IRS provides a way to search for qualified charitable organizations online at www.irs.gov.


What If My Contribution Benefited Me?

If you receive a benefit in exchange for a charitable contribution, the deduction is reduced by the value of the benefit received.


What Is a Deductible Contribution?

While most gifts we give to qualified charitable organizations seem obvious, some items might not actually qualify while other items may. Here is a helpful list based on common gifts we see given.


​Deductible as

Charitable Contributions

​Nondeductible as

Charitable Contributions

  • Cash, check, credit card, or money order given to a qualified charitable organization.

  • Property other than cash or check given to a qualified charitable organization.

  • Out-of-pocket expenses when serving a qualified organization as a volunteer.

  • Automobile expenses when serving a qualified organization as a volunteer.

  • Limited portion of expenses paid for a student living with the taxpayer under a written agreement, sponsored by a qualified charitable organization.

  • Charity volunteer’s travel expenses away from home, including meals/lodging if there is no significant level of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.

  • Contribution to a nonqualified charitable organization.

  • Political contributions.

  • The value of a taxpayer’s time or services.

  • Gifts to an individual.

  • Donations to organizations engaged in lobbying, for law changes, or for the taxpayer’s trade or business.

  • Tuition at a school that is a qualified charity (but may qualify for education tax benefits).

  • The cost of raffle, bingo, or lottery tickets (but may qualify as a gambling loss).

  • The value of blood given to a blood bank.

  • Adoption expenses.

  • Contributions of $250 or more if acknowledgement statement is not retained.

  • The transfer of a future interest in tangible personal property.

  • The amount of contribution where a benefit was received in exchange.

  • Certain contributions to donor-advised funds.

Athletic Tickets. No deduction is allowed for amounts paid to (or for the benefit of) a college or university in exchange for athletic event tickets or seating rights.


Membership Fees or Dues as a Donation. Membership dues or fees paid to qualified charitable organization, minus the value of any membership benefits, are deductible. If the annual fee is $75 or less, certain membership benefits are disregarded, even if you pay more than $75 annually. Examples of disregarded benefits include:

  • Free or discounted parking or admission to events or facilities.

  • Preferred access to, or discounts for organization goods or services.

  • Admission to member-only events for which the admission cost is a token amount or $12.50 or less.

Charitable Benefit Event Ticket. The deduction equals the ticket price, minus the value of the right to attend the event. This is true even if you did not actually attend the event. However, if the ticket is returned to the qualified charity for resale, the entire cost of the ticket is deductible.


How Do I Claim My Donations in My Yearly Tax Return?

Cash contributions to public charities and certain other organizations are limited to 60% of adjust gross income (AGI). The 60% limit does not apply to noncash charitable contributions, which are limited to 50% of AGI.


Example: Rachel made a cash donation of $8,000 to her favorite public charity. This was her only charitable contribution for the year. Rachel’s AGI is $10,000. Because of the 60% AGI limitation, she is only allowed a deduction of $6,000. The remaining $2,000 is carried forward for up to five years.


There are a few types of donations that have a 30% AGI limit. The 30% AGI limit applies to:

  • Donations to organizations that are not public charities, such as veterans’ organizations, fraternal societies, nonprofit cemeteries, and certain private foundations.

  • Donation of property that is used by a charity, other than capital gain property donated to a non-public charity.

  • Cash contributions for the use of (held in trust) a public charity instead of to the charity.

  • Deduction for student living expenses.

  • Certain capital gain property contributions to public charities. However, you can elect to apply the 50% AGI limit.

What If I Donate My Vehicle?

A popular way to help your favorite qualified charitable organization and free up some space in your garage is to donate your vehicle. First, make sure the qualified charitable organization you want to gift your vehicle will accept it; not all charitable organizations have the ability to take vehicles.


Next you'll want to obtain written acknowledgement from the organization, which includes details on the use or disposition of the vehicle by the donee organization. A copy of the written acknowledgement must be attached to the tax return.


Vehicle Valued at More than $500

A vehicle donation with a claimed fair market value (FMV) more than $500 is limited.

  1. If the organization sells the donated vehicle without a significant intervening use of or material improvement by the donee organization, then the deduction is limited to the gross proceeds received from the sale.

  2. If the organization sells the donated vehicle after a significant intervening use of or material improvement to the vehicle, the deduction is limited to its FMV.

  3. If the organization gives or sells the vehicle at well below FMV to a needy individual in line with the purpose of the charity to provide transportation to the poor, the deduction is limited to FMV.

Vehicle Valued at Less than $500

A written acknowledgement is still required if the contribution is $250 or more. If the organization sells the vehicle without any significant intervening use of or material improvement for $500 or less, the deduction is equal to the lesser of $500, or FMV.


Example: Jack donates his car, worth $800, to a charity that sells it for $400 without any significant intervening use or material improvements. Jack can deduct $500 as a charitable contribution. Because his deduction is $250 or more, he still needs a written acknowledgement from the charity, but the acknowledgement is not required to be attached to his return.


What If I Donate Other Items?

There are many qualified charitable organizations who accept the donation of gently used items. To help substantiate a deduction for the fair market value of used items donated to charity, make a list of each item donated on a separate sheet of paper along with the following information.

  • Name and address of charity.

  • Date item was donated to the charity.

  • Description of each item donated.

  • Fair market value of each item at the time it was donated

  • Date each donated item was originally purchased or acquired.

  • Cost or other basis of each item donated.

Tax Pro Tip: Take a picture of all items donated. Keep the pictures for proof the items were in good or better condition at the time they were donated.


It is important to remember that no deduction is allowed for a charitable contribution of clothing or household items unless the clothing or household item is in good used condition or better. The IRS is authorized by regulation to deny a deduction for any contribution of clothing or a household item that has minimal monetary value, such as used socks and undergarments. (Now you see what a photo can come in handy!)


How do I know what my gently used items are worth?

For the tax year 2023, here is a fair market value (FMV) guide with many donatable items and how to value them for your taxes.

Men’s Clothing

Jacket....................... $8–$26

Overcoat............... $16–$62

Pajamas.................... $2–$8

Raincoat.................. $5–$21

Shirt......................... $3–$12

Shoes...................... $4–$26

Shorts..................... $4–$10

Slacks...................... $5–$12

Suit........................ $16–$62

Sweater................... $3–$12

Swim trunks............. $3–$8

Tuxedo.................. $10–$62


Women’s Clothing

Bathing suit............ $4–$12

Bathrobe................ $3–$12

Blouse..................... $3–$12

Boots......................... $2–$5

Coat....................... $10–$41

Dress....................... $4–$20

Evening dress...... $10–$62

Fur coat.............. $26–$415

Fur hat.................... $7–$16

Handbag................. $2–$21

Hat............................. $1–$8

Jacket....................... $4–$12

Nightgown.............. $4–$12

Pants suit................ $7–$26

Shoes...................... $2–$26

Skirt........................... $3–$8

Slacks...................... $4–$12

Suit.......................... $6–$26

Sweater................... $4–$16


Children’s Clothing

Blouse....................... $2–$8

Boots....................... $3–$21

Coat......................... $5–$21

Dress....................... $4–$12

Jacket....................... $3–$26

Jeans....................... $4–$12

Pants....................... $3–$12

Shirt........................... $2–$6

Shoes........................ $3–$9

Skirt........................... $2–$6

Slacks........................ $2–$8

Snowsuit................. $4–$20

Sweater..................... $3–$8

Household Goods

Bakeware.................. $1–$3

Bedspread/quilt..... $3–$25

Blanket.................... $3–$16

Chair/sofa cover.. $16–$36

Coffeemaker.......... $4–$16

Curtains.................. $2–$12

Drapes.................... $7–$41

Fireplace set......... $21–$83

Floor lamp.............. $6–$52

Glass/cup............ $0.50–$2

Griddle.................... $4–$12

Kitchen utensils.. $0.50–$2

Lamp....................... $5–$78

Mixer/blender........ $5–$21

Picture/painting... $5–$207

Pillow......................... $2–$8

Plate..................... $0.50–$3

Pot/pan..................... $1–$3

Sheets....................... $2–$8

Throw rug............... $2–$12

Towel.................... $0.50–$4


Furniture

Bed (full, queen, king).................... $52–$176

Bed (twin)............$36–$104

Bedroom set..$259–$1,037

Chair

(upholstered)..... $26–$104

Chest..................... $26–$99

China cabinet..... $89–$311

Clothes closet...... $16–$52

Coffee table......... $16–$67

Crib and

mattress............. $26–$104

Desk.................... $26–$145

Dining

room set........... $156–$934

Dresser with

mirror................. $21–$104

End table.............. $10–$52

Folding bed.......... $21–$62

Hi riser.................. $36–$78

High chair............. $10–$52

Kitchen cabinet.... $26–$78

Kitchen chair.......... $3–$10

Kitchen set......... $36–$176

Mattress

(double)................ $13–$78

Mattress

(single).................. $16–$36

Playpen................... $4–$31

Rugs...................... $21–$93

Secretary............ $52–$145

Sleeper sofa with

mattress............. $88–$311

Sofa..................... $36–$207

Trunk....................... $5–$73

Wardrobe........... $21–$104

​Appliances

Air conditioner..... $21–$93

Dryer..................... $47–$93

Electric stove...... $78–$156

Freezer............... $25–$100

Gas stove............ $52–$130

Heater..................... $8–$23

Microwave............ $10–$50

Refrigerator....... $78–$259

TV (color)............ $78–$233

Washing

machine............. $41–$156


Miscellaneous

Bicycle..................... $5–$83

Board game.............. $1–$3

Book

(hardback)................ $1–$3

Book

(paperback).............. $1–$2

Carriage................ $5–$100

CD.............................. $2–$5

Cell phone.......... $25–$100

Computer

monitor................... $5–$51

Computer

printer................... $5–$155

Computer

system.............. $104–$415

Copier................. $41–$207

DVD........................... $2–$5

DVD player/VCR..... $8–$16

Edger....................... $5–$26

eReader................ $10–$50

Golf club

(individual).............. $2–$26

Ice skates................ $3–$16

Luggage.................. $5–$16

Mower................ $26–$104

Mower

(riding).............. $104–$311

Radio....................... $8–$52

Roller blades.......... $3–$16

Sewing

machine................ $15–$88

Stereo................... $16–$78

Stuffed animal.... $0.50–$1

Tablet.................. $25–$150

Tennis racket............ $2–$5

Typewriter.............. $5–$26

Umbrella................... $2–$6

Vacuum cleaner... $16–$67

Note: You are responsible for establishing actual value of items donated.

 

Legal Disclaimer: This post contains general information for taxpayers and should not be relied upon as the only source of authority. Taxpayers should seek professional tax advice for more information. This information was current at time of posting; we are not responsible for updating this or any blog post/article for subsequent changes in the law or its interpretation.


Certain content on this page is copyright © 2023 Tax Materials, Inc. All Rights Reserved for applicable content. Used with permission.

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