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What You Need To Know To Deduct Charitable Contributions On Your 2017 Income Tax Return

The more itemized deductions you can rack up on you individual income tax return, the smaller amount of taxable income you will have which now puts more money in your pocket. Taxpayers who gave money or goods to a charity should be able to claim charitable contributions which get included as an itemized deduction on their 2017 federal tax return.

For those taxpayers looking to make charitable contributions in 2018 for their 2018 taxes, the good news is that the 2017 Tax Cuts And Jobs Act made no changes to the deductibility of charitable contributions.

So whether it is for 2017 or future years, here are some important facts you need to know about claiming charitable contributions to save on taxes and withstand an IRS audit.

  1. Qualified Charity. Only donations to qualified charitable organizations are deductible. Do not merely rely on the organization’s website or what the organization may state. If you are questioning whether an organization is qualified, you can check with IRS directly through the IRS website. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool. Keep in mind that religious institutions including churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques are considered “de facto” charitable organizations and are eligible to receive deductible donations even if they are not on the IRS’ website. However, you can never deduct donations to political organizations and candidates. Also, you cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals no matter how deserving or sympathetic to their tragic situation.
  1. You Must Itemize. To deduct donations, you must include these donations as Itemized Deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040. If the total amount of your Itemized Deductions does not exceed the Standard Deduction already given to you by the Federal government, you won’t get any real benefit from making these donations.
  1. Deductible Portion Of Donation May Be Reduced. You can only deduct the amount of your donation that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received. If you get something in return for your donation, you would have to reduce your deduction by the value you received. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals and tickets to events.
  1. Property donation. If you give property instead of cash, you can normally only deduct the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get for the property item on the open market. Donating property that has appreciated in value, like stock, can result in a double benefit. Not only can you deduct the fair market value of the property (so long as you have owned it for at least one year), you will avoid paying capital gains tax.
  1. Donations From Your Retirement Account. Typically, if you want to make a donation from your IRA, you’d have to withdraw those funds, pay the tax and then make the donation. However, IRA owners who are age 70½ or older can transfer up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charity tax-free and the transfer counts toward your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year. To be an eligible transfer, funds must be transferred directly by the IRA trustee to the charity. Withdrawing the monies first and then writing the check to the charity will not qualify for the non-recognition of income.
  1. Form to File. You would file Form 8283 for all non-cash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year. Keep an itemized list of for donations of non-cash items – do not just state you gave a bag of clothes and expect to substantiate the value of what you gave. Instead be specific, noting the description and condition of the items. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the item which is the price that a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller. If you contribute property worth more than $5,000, you must obtain a written appraisal of the property’s fair market value.
  1. Proof of Donation. If you donated cash or goods of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity. The statement must show:
    • Amount of the donation.
    • Description of any property given.
    • Whether the donor received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.  

For cash donations under $250, you should always have substantiation of payment by a bank record such as a canceled check or credit card receipt, clearly annotated with the name of the charity or in writing from the organization. Even with a statement from the charity, it is still a good idea to retain this evidence of payment.

  1. You Can’t Deduct The Value Of Your Time. While your time is valuable, when you volunteer your time for charities, the IRS does not allow a charitable deduction for the time you spent. However, most out of pocket expenses relating to volunteering are should be deductible so long as they are not reimbursed to you or considered personal. Out of pocket charitable expenses which might be deductible include parking fees and tolls; other travel expenses; uniforms or other related clothing worn as part of your charitable service; and supplies used in the performance of your services. You will need to keep receipts evidencing payment in case you are questioned by the IRS.
  1. Timing Of Contribution. Contributions are deductible in the year the contributions are made so for the 2017 tax year that would had to been no later than December 31, 2017. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that by the 31st the cash payment had to be made out of your account. Contributions made by text message are deductible in the year you send the text message if the contribution is charged to your telephone or wireless account. Contributions made by credit card charges are deductible in the year charged so long as the charge is posted by your credit card company in that tax year. The credit charge itself does not have to be paid off by the end of the tax year it was charged. Similarly, checks which are written and mailed by the end of the year will be deductible for the year written if they are not cashed until the following year. Announcing that you intend to donate assets will not qualify for a deduction in the current tax year until the tax year you make good on the pledge.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, unreported crypto currency transactions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

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