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Not All Giving is Deductible

Stacie Kitts, CPA is a partner at Katherman Kitts & Co. LLP

On occasion I run across a taxpayer who “helped” out a family or a friend and wants to deduct the money given as a charitable contribution.  They are always shocked to find out that helping your neighbor isn’t tax deductible unless its through a charitable organization.

Charity is good, but if you want to deduct it, be sure to check out the items below.

If you make a donation to a charity this year, you may be able to take a deduction for it on your 2011 tax return. Here are the top nine things the IRS wants every taxpayer to know before deducting charitable donations.

  1. Make sure the organization qualifies Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization or check IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations. It is available at www.IRS.gov.
  2. You must itemize Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.
  3. What you can deduct You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.
  4. When you receive something in return If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods, or services in return – such as admission to a charity banquet or sporting event – you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  5. Recordkeeping Keep good records of any contribution you make, regardless of the amount. For any cash contribution, you must maintain a record of the contribution, such as a cancelled check, bank or credit card statement, payroll deduction record or a written statement from the charity containing the date and amount of the contribution and the name of the organization.
  6. Pledges and payments Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity only $200 by Dec. 31, you can only deduct $200.
  7. Donations made near the end of the year Include credit card charges and payments by check in the year you give them to the charity, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.
  8. Large donations For any contribution of $250 or more, you need more than a bank record. You must have a written acknowledgment from the organization. It must include the amount of cash and say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. If you donated property, the acknowledgment must include a description of the items and a good faith estimate of its value. For items valued at $500 or more you must complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attach the form to your return. If you claim a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000, you generally must obtain an appraisal and complete Section B of Form 8283 with your return.
  9. Tax Exemption Revoked Approximately 275,000 organizations automatically lost their tax-exempt status recently because they did not file required annual reports for three consecutive years, as required by law. Donations made prior to an organization’s automatic revocation remain tax-deductible. Going forward, however, organizations that are on the auto-revocation list that do not receive reinstatement are no longer eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

For the list of organizations whose tax-exempt status was revoked, visit www.IRS.gov. For general information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available at www.IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Links:

IRS Reminds Taxpayers How To Provide Earthquake Relief For Japan

By Stacie Clifford Kitts, CPA

The IRS today issued a reminder for individuals, businesses and charitable organization that wish to provide assistance to the victims of Japan’s devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

Its important to remember, if you make charitable contributions to qualified U.S. charities that provide assistance to foreign country’s, your contribution is tax deductible.  Making contributions to an organization or individual that is not a qualified U.S. organization will not get you a tax deduction.

Many individuals, businesses and charitable organizations wish to provide assistance to the victims of Japan’s recent earthquake. Consult Disaster Relief Resources for Charities and Donors on IRS.gov to get information about how to provide assistance to victims through a charitable organization.

Contributions to domestic tax-exempt, charitable organizations that provide assistance to individuals in foreign lands qualify as tax-deductible contributions for federal income tax purposes, provided that the U.S. organization has control and discretion over the use of funds. Donors should ensure that they make contributions to qualified charities. Use the Search for Charities function on IRS.gov to see if the charity you intend to support is a qualified charity listed in Pub. 78.  Certain organizations, such as churches or governmental organizations, may be qualified to accept charitable contributions, even though they are not listed in Pub. 78.

IRS Patrol:Qualified Disaster Treatment for Haiti

Washington — The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance that designates the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 as a qualified disaster for federal tax purposes. The guidance allows recipients of qualified disaster relief payments to exclude those payments from income on their tax returns. Also, the guidance allows employer-sponsored private foundations to assist victims in areas affected by the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti without affecting their tax-exempt status.

Charities usually fall into one of two categories — public charities or private foundations. Under the tax law, a private foundation that is employer-sponsored may make qualified disaster relief payments to employees affected by a qualified disaster. These payments generally include amounts to cover necessary personal, family, living or funeral expenses that were not covered by insurance. They also include expenses to repair or rehabilitate personal residences or repair or replace the contents to the extent that they were not covered by insurance. Again, these payments would not be included in the individual recipient’s gross income.

Qualified disasters include Presidentially declared disasters and any other event that the Secretary of the Treasury determines to be catastrophic. The IRS has determined that the earthquake in Haiti that occurred this month is an event of catastrophic nature for purposes of the federal tax law.

The IRS will presume that qualified disaster relief payments made by a private foundation to employees and their family members in areas affected by the earthquake in Haiti to be consistent with the foundation’s charitable purposes.

Tax Planning Reminder – Charitable Contributions

[Stacie says: this is an IRS reminder about charitable giving. As noted below, only persons who itemize deductions on schedule A are eligible to take a charitable deduction. And – donations made to a qualified organization are deductible in the year donated. Here’s a summary of what you need to remember:

    1) IRA Owners for this year only (unless extended) if you are 70 1/2 or older you can tansfer tax free up to $100,000 to charity. See below for more information.

    2) If you donated clothes or household items, they must be in good or better condition. If the amount is over $500, attach a completed Form 8283 to the return.

    3) If you donate cash you need a receipt, a cancelled check, bank confirmation of the donation, or written acknowledgement from the charity for your donation to be deductible. Remember giving cash to the Santa on the corner will not be deductible unless he is associated with a qualified charity and you pay with check or get written acknowledgement from the charity.

    4) If you donate a car to charity, remember that the deductible portion is generally limited to the amount the charity gets from the sale of the vehicle. Remember to get a copy of Form 1098-C from the charity.]

Watch Video: Year-End Tax Tips: English Spanish ASL Watch Video: Record Keeping: English ASL

WASHINGTON — Individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years.

Some of these changes include the following:

Special Charitable Contributions for Certain IRA Owners
This provision, currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2009, offers older owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) a different way to give to charity. An IRA owner, age 70½ or over, can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charity. This option, created in 2006, is available for distributions from IRAs, regardless of whether the owners itemize their deductions. Distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, including SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans, are not eligible.

To qualify, the funds must be contributed directly by the IRA trustee to the eligible charity. Amounts so transferred are not taxable and no deduction is available for the transfer.
Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

Amounts transferred to a charity from an IRA are counted in determining whether the owner has met the IRA’s required minimum distribution. Where individuals have made nondeductible contributions to their traditional IRAs, a special rule treats transferred amounts as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information on qualified charitable distributions.

Rules for Clothing and Household Items
To be deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens.

Guidelines for Monetary Donations
To deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.

Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

These requirements for the deduction of monetary donations do not change the long-standing requirement that a taxpayer obtain an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.

Reminders
To help taxpayers plan their holiday-season and year-end giving, the IRS offers the following additional reminders:

Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2009 count for 2009. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2010. Also, checks count for 2009 as long as they are mailed in 2009 and clear, shortly thereafter.

Check that the organization is qualified. Only donations to qualified organizations are tax-deductible. IRS Publication 78, available online and at many public libraries, lists most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. The searchable online version can be found at IRS.gov under Search for Charities. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations, even if they are not listed in Publication 78.

For individuals, only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. This deduction is not available to individuals who choose the standard deduction, including anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ). A taxpayer will have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Use the 2009 Form 1040 Schedule A, available now on IRS.gov, to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.

For all donations of property, including clothing and household items, get from the charity, if possible, a receipt that includes the name of the charity, date of the contribution, and a reasonably-detailed description of the donated property. If a donation is left at a charity’s unattended drop site, keep a written record of the donation that includes this information, as well as the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation and the method used to determine that value. Additional rules apply for a contribution of $250 or more.

The deduction for a motor vehicle, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C, or a similar statement, must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor’s tax return.

If the amount of a taxpayer’s deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 must be submitted with the tax return.

For additional information on charitable giving:
Charities & Non-Profits
Publication 526 , Charitable Contributions.
On-line mini-course, Can I Deduct My Charitable Contributions?

Did You Know Form 990 Has Been Redesigned? Here’s Some Help in Completing The New Form

[Stacie says: Hey, I checked this out and it is pretty good. Be sure to click through to the new on line tools.]

Thousands of tax-exempt organizations are in the process of gathering information and completing the redesigned 2008 Form 990. This new on-line tool uses a practical example to show organizations how to address key areas of the redesigned Form 990 and Schedules. An organization can compare its own situation to the case study and learn how to properly complete its own form.

Getting Started includes a sample filled-in Form 990 and Schedules A and O, prepared using information about a hypothetical organization’s mission, board of directors, financial information and policies. This series of seven, short, on-line videos explain how to complete key sections of the Form 990 and highlights some of the form changes. Find this new on-line resource as well as other resources for 990 filers on IRS.gov

Tips for Taxpayers Making Charitable Donations

Here is another Summertime Tax Tip from the IRS. Did I mention that I just love these?

Every year, millions of taxpayers itemize their deductions on their federal tax return. One of the most common itemized deductions is a donation made to a charitable organization.

Here are the top ten things the IRS wants every taxpayer to know before deducting charitable donations.

Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization and most will be able to tell you. You can also check IRS Publication 78, which lists most qualified organizations. IRS Publication 78 is available at IRS.gov.

Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.

You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.
If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods, or services in return – such as admission to a charity banquet or sporting event – you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

Be sure to keep good records of any contribution you make, regardless of the amount. For any contribution made in cash, you must maintain a record of the contribution such as a bank record – including a cancelled check or a bank or credit card statement – a written record from the charity containing the date and amount of the contribution and the donor’s name, or a payroll deduction record.

Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity only $200 by Dec. 31, your deduction would be $200.

Include credit card charges and payments by check in the year they are given to the charity, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.

For any contribution of $250 or more, you must have written acknowledgment from the organization to substantiate your donation. This written proof must include the amount of cash and a description of any property you contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

To deduct charitable contributions of items valued at $500 or more you must complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attached the form to your return.
An appraisal generally must be obtained if you claim a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000. In that case, you must also fill out Section B of Form 8283 and attach the form to your return.

For more information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available on the IRS Web site, IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:
Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions
Publication 526, Charitable Contributions

IRS Gives You Five Reasons to Visit IRS.gov

[Stacie says: The IRS wants you to visit their website this summer. And they give you five reasons why.]

IRS.gov is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Whether you need a form or have tax questions, IRS.gov has a wealth of information. IRS.gov is accessible all day, every day.

Here are five reasons to visit IRS.gov this summer.

Get information about the numerous tax breaks made available earlier this year in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Calculate the right amount of withholding allowances on your W-4. The IRS Withholding Calculator will help you ensure that you don’t have too much or too little income tax withheld from your pay.

Search for charities. Search Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, to find out if an organization is exempt from federal taxation and, if so, how much of your contributions to that organization are tax deductible.

Get information about careers at the IRS. No matter what your professional specialty, the IRS can offer you a variety of full-time career or seasonal job opportunities.

Get tax forms and publications. You can view, download and order tax forms and publications any hour of the day or night.

Remember that for the genuine IRS Web site be sure to use .gov. Don’t be confused by internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.

The address of the official IRS governmental Web site is http://www.irs.gov/.

Links:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Information Center
IRS Withholding Calculator
Search for charities

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