Spring Cleaning and Charitable Giving to Help at Tax-Time

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It’s spring and that means it’s a great time to clean out the basement, attic, closets, and garage and save some money on your 2013 tax return at the same time. There are many charitable organizations that you can donate items to help those in need and take a deduction on your tax return if you itemize.

Blooming Swab

If you did spring cleaning in 2012 you can also take advantage of this tax benefit and save on your 2012 taxes.  Let’s look at the types of items you might like to donate.

Household Goods such as furniture, appliances, etc, must be in ‘good used condition’ or better, and you must have a written acknowledgement from the charity for any donations of cash or property worth more than $250. Your old set of cutlery, cookware, or dishes may not seem valuable to you, but agencies helping people get off the street or away from an abusive relationship are looking for these things to set people up in a new apartment.

Used Clothing is also in strong demand in nearly every area of the country. Be careful not to over value it, keeping in mind that the IRS tells us “the price that buyers of used items actually pay in used clothing stores, such as consignment or thrift shops, is an indication of the value.”

If you plan to donate Jewelry or Gems to a qualified charity, perhaps to help them out at their annual auction, you should have a written appraisal from a specialized jewelry appraiser. The lucky guy or gal that bids on your treasure might have a donation of his or her own, but only to the extent their winning bid exceeded the appraised value of your donated jewelry.

Donations of art valued at over $5,000 must be supported by a written appraisal which you should keep with your records. If over $20,000, the IRS would like to see that appraisal attached to your return along with an 8 x 10 inch color picture of the donated art.

Cars and Boats are valued using pricing guides for private party sales, and should be reduced if the car has any damage or excess wear. If the donated car is sold by the charity, you can only deduct what the charity sold it for. What the charity does with the car may impact the deduction you can take, Publication 526 offers a comprehensive set of guidelines for how to value your deduction.

Stocks and Bonds can also be donated directly to charity and there’s a bit of a double bonus in doing so. Say you’ve owned a stock for a long time and its value is many times its original price. By donating the stock to a charity, you get the tax deduction, based on your marginal rate, but you also get to avoid the capital gain on those shares. For those who have significant donations they are making each year, this is a nice strategy to maximize your charitable giving.

I shouldn’t miss mentioning that The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (what congress passed to avoid the fiscal cliff) extended the Qualified Charitable Distribution for 2013. This means that if you are 70-1/2 or older and taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from your IRA, you can direct the custodian, the bank or broker, to send funds directly to a charity of your choosing. It’s consider part of your RMD, but isn’t taxed. For those who don’t itemize, it has the effect of saving you the same on your taxes as if it were a deduction included on your return. Even if you do itemize, it may still provide a bit of a benefit by not appearing as adjusted gross income.

I hope these Spring Cleaning ideas can help make some room in your house and lighten your tax bill next year.  Don’t forget, if you did spring cleaning in 2012 you can take advantage of these tax deductions when you file your 2012 taxes.  TurboTax will ask you the proper questions so that you can keep more of your hard-earned money.

4 responses to “Spring Cleaning and Charitable Giving to Help at Tax-Time”

  1. My daughter is 22 years old and full time student ..working part time with gross income of $9700 can I claim her as dependent?

  2. My daughter is a full time student , and working part time making $9700. Will I be able to claim her on my income tax?