How to Track Your Charitable Contributions

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As we near the end of the year, a lot of folks start thinking about charitable contributions. The holidays are a wonderful time to give to your favorite organizations, and December 31 is the last day to make a tax deductible contribution count for 2016. But perhaps you’ve lost track of donations you made in the spring and summer? As you make donations throughout the year, it’s important to build a system to track charitable donations (say, the TurboTax It’s Deductible app!) so you don’t forget a single deduction!

What is a charitable donation?

The basic rule is that any money or property you donate to a qualified charitable organization is tax deductible. Every charity knows whether it’s qualified by the IRS and you can search for them on the IRS website.

The rules of documenting cash donations and property donations differ. For cash donations, you can use a cancelled check or statement from your credit card or bank, if the donation is under $250. If it is over $250, the charity will need to give you written acknowledgement of the donation. It can be a mailed letter or an email, but you need it to prove you made the donation.

For property donations, you will need to record the property’s fair market value – that’s what you will deduct. If the property is a single item or a group of similar items worth over $5,000, like artwork, you will need an appraisal from a qualified appraiser.

Unfortunately, you cannot claim a tax deduction for donation of your time. If you drove to volunteer at a charity, you can deduct the mileage at 14 cents per mile, as well as any supplies you bought for the charity.

What’s the best way to keep track of your donations?

Try different systems until you find the one that works with you. You need to store all these receipts and documents in a safe place and then remember to retrieve them when it comes to preparing your taxes.

I scan every receipt and keep in a folder on my computer, and I save every email receipt to a PDF and store those in the same folder. When it comes time to do my taxes during tax season, all my receipts have accumulated in the same place.

The key is to put all the documentation in one place. One phone app that can help you easily collect this information in one place is TurboTax ItsDeductible.  It’s free and values and tracks your donations year round and then imports the data into TurboTax. By having all your donations in one place, it’s hard to forget a receipt here or there. If you have some of your documentation in a physical folder and some in your email inbox, it’s very easy to forget one or the other.

Don’t worry about knowing the tax laws related to charitable donations. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about your donations and give you the tax deductions you are eligible for based on your entries.

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