While we believe at Salty Soul Foundation that your primary motivation to donate to charity should be altruism, we also think you should know that great tax benefits exist for those who give. Here are some of the rules and benefits you should know about.
- A gift to a qualified charitable organization may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction against your income tax if you itemize deductions. You must itemize in order to take a charitable deduction. Make sure that if you itemize, your total deductions are greater than the standard deduction. If they’re not, stick with the standard deduction.
- A contribution is deductible in the year in which it is paid. Putting the check in the mail to the charity constitutes payment. A contribution made on a credit card is deductible in the year it is charged to your credit card, even if payment to the credit card company is made in a later year.
- Most, but not all, charitable organizations qualify for a charitable contribution deduction. You can deduct contributions only if they are made to or for the use of a qualified recipient. No charitable contribution deduction is allowed for gifts to certain other kinds of organizations, even if those organizations are exempt from income tax. Contributions to individuals, foreign governments, foreign charities, and certain private foundations similarly are not deductible. All organizations rated by Charity Navigator qualify for charitable status, and you can deduct your donations to these organizations, subject to certain limitations.
- There are limits to how much you can deduct, but they’re very high. For most people, the limits on charitable contributions don’t apply. Only if you contribute more than 20% of your adjusted gross income to charity is it necessary to be concerned about donation limits. Under the new tax law, if the contribution is made to a public charity, the deduction is limited to 60% of your contribution base. For example, if you have an adjusted gross income of $100,000, your deduction limit for that year is $60,000.
The rules on 20% limits and 30% limits are way too complicated to delve into in this space. If you are giving to organizations other than those mentioned above, first consult with your tax adviser to determine whether these other ceilings will apply. If you give an amount in excess of the applicable limitation to charity in one year, the excess is carried over for the next five years.
- You need to maintain proper documentation of your contributions. If you want to claim a charitable deduction for a cash gift, then you must be prepared to verify your claim. In other words, you cannot deduct the spare change dropped in a charity’s collection bucket without the proper documentation. If you are audited, the IRS will only accept one of the following to substantiate a monetary gift: a canceled check, credit card statement, bank statement or a written acknowledgment from the charity. Donating online via Donor Box helps you fulfill this requirement since all your giving records will be stored in one place enabling you to quickly obtain an annual record of your charitable giving for tax preparation.
If you contribute $250 or more, then you must prove to the IRS that you (a) made the donation and (b) you didn’t receive anything in return for that donation. Therefore you’ll need a receipt from the charity that includes the following information: the charity’s name, the value of your gift, the date you made your donation and a statement verifying that you did not receive any goods or services in return for your gift.
Remember, it’s always better to give than receive. The glory of charitable donations is that you give and receive at the same time.
The above summary of certain federal income tax laws is provided for informational purposes only. We urge you to consult your tax advisor for the federal, state, and local tax consequences of a charitable contribution.