Help for Haiti: House and Senate Say Yes to 2009 Tax Break for Donations

The pictures are sad, frustrating, and downright difficult to look at.  And the headlines are just as sad with death toll numbers keep rising almost by the minute.

With the state of affairs so dire in Haiti, Americans are eager to lend a hand. Yesterday, the House and Senate passed a bill that will allow Americans to write off their donations to Haiti on their 2009 tax return, even if they donate this year. One catch: You need to donate before the end of February 2010 to deduct a donation to Haiti on your 2009 return. That’s right, our relief money will not only help the struggling nation try to rebuild and recover, but help us recover from this tough economy with a bigger write-off.

Normally Dec. 31 is the deadline applying a year’s worth of charitable donations to the existing year’s return.  This bill will allow taxpayers to take the deduction for their donation to Haiti relief on their 2009 or 2010 tax returns (so if you’ve already filed your 2009 taxes, don’t worry, you can still take the deduction next year on your 2010 tax return).  As of  Jan 21, the bill has been passed in the House and the Senate and the President is expected to sign the bill quickly.

According to MSNBC, the American Red Cross had raised a total of $127 million as of Tuesday evening. Of that amount, about $24 million had come from people making $10 donations by texting the word “Haiti” to the number 90999 from their mobile phones.  If you donate via text make sure you keep your phone bill as documentation for the IRS.

But remember, don’t assume all Haiti donations will be tax deductible. Donations to foreign organizations generally aren’t deductible, so that means your donation must be made to a U.S.-based organization like the Red Cross to get the deduction. And regardless of the amount of the donation, you need bank records or written communication from the charity that shows the date and amount of the gift.

So if you haven’t donated yet, and want to, check whether it is a qualified charity by searching at IRS.gov. You can also check out this post by Jim Wang, to find out more about itemizing deductions on your taxes.

This move by the IRS isn’t unusual either. Similar legislation was passed in 2005 to boost contributions in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in 2004.

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  1. Can someone tell me how I enter the Haiti donation I made to the RedCross on 2/8/10 using Turbo Tax. I tried to do it, but it said I chose the wrong date, meaning, it knew that I should have entered 2009 and not 2010. Please respond to my email address as I won’t be checking an other website.

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