Follow these 5 important steps so you don't fall victim to scams when making tax-deductible charitable car donations
Weighing the idea of making car donations to save money on your taxes? There is no shortage of charities shouting for your attention! Unfortunately some of the so-called charities that try to capture your attention on local airwaves and TV ads are nothing more than wolves in sheep's clothing - people who operate very profitable businesses by taking advantage of the IRS rules regarding tax-deductible car donations. They might donate a bit of their profits to charity - they have to in order to keep their status with the IRS. But the portion they donate to charity can be shockingly low, sometimes as low as 1%. Some even form their own charity and staff it with friends and family!
So how do you cut through the endless parade of shams to find a real charity that will accept car donations? Here are 5 key factors that will help you make sure your tax-deductible car donations help the people who really need it:
1: Eliminate the middleman
When making car donations, donate directly to a charitable organization whenever possible. Questionable charity car donation programs are almost always middlemen glad to take your tax-deductible charitable car donations, sell them, donate an insignificant amount to a non-profit and pocket the rest for 'operating costs'. When you deal with a middleman, the amount you donate gets sliced twice, once for the operating costs of the middleman charity vehicle organization, and once for the overhead of the charity. Your gift goes a lot further when you give your vehicle to a charitable organization that takes car donations directly, like Volunteers of America Chesapeake. An average of 88% of donations made to Volunteers of America go to local programs like helping the homeless in Baltimore and Virginia Beach, permanent senior housing and senior programs in Washington D.C and Arlington, and emergency food and shelter programs in Lanham, Woodbridge or Leesburg.
2: Do a charity check-up
Finding the best charity to donate a used car doesn’t have to be a stab in the dark – the internet has a couple of easy ways you can evaluate any charity you are thinking of donating cars to. The Better Business Bureau is a natural place to start. At bbb.org the Better Business Bureau evaluates charities on 20 Standards of Charity Accountability including how they spend their money, whether the organization represents itself honestly, and the charity’s willingness to disclose important information to the public. Another valuable resource for people looking to donate a used car for a tax deduction is GuideStar Exchange, found at guidestar.org. GuideStar's mission is "To revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving." We display the Guidestar and Better Business Bureau seals on all our web pages, which link to their reviews of Volunteers of America.
When you make any kind of tax-deductible charitable car donations, the higher percentage of your gift that goes into programs that help people, the better. The Federal Government doesn't have a set percentage that a car donation program has to contribute to charity - believe it or not some actually give less than 10%. When you're considering donating a car it's wise to take the time to uncover just what percentage of your car donations will make its way into programs that help people. Legitimate charities will make that information available on their website, or in an online copy of their annual report. You can also find the percentage of giving online through the Better Business Bureau or GuideStar. Volunteers of America puts an average of 88% of all donations to use in locally run programs like emergency food and shelter, job training, senior housing and youth services for nearly 2 million people nationwide, including tens of thousands right here in Maryland, Washington D.C and Virginia.
4: Help people close to home
If the charity you're thinking of donating a car or truck to is vague about the programs they offer and where they offer them, it can be a red flag. If you like the idea of helping people close to home, look for an organization that helps people in your area or state. When you make tax-deductible charitable car donations community programs near you can provide another plus - you can look in on the programs you donated to, and see your donation in action. Right here in Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland Volunteers of America Chesapeake serves 175,000 meals a year to people fighting the tough economy, shelters hundreds of homeless veterans while providing job training and other support, and provides permanent housing to seniors who might otherwise be forgotten.
5: Make sure that the charity is designated as an official 501(c)(3) charity by the IRS
If you make tax-deductible charitable car donations, make sure your car donations go to a 501(c)(3) charity - an official designation only the Internal Revenue Service can provide. If the charity car donation program you're looking into doesn't have a 501(c)(3) designation, your deduction may be disallowed, and you could end up writing the government a check for unpaid taxes, plus interest and penalties. If you want a tax deduction for car donations, donate to an official 501(c)(3) charity.
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to Volunteers of America Chesapeake
Here are 5 key ways Volunteers of America Chesapeake rises above the scammers:
We aren't a middleman
We don't donate money to charity – we are the charity. When you make car donations to Volunteers of America Region, you are donating directly to the organization that helps tens of thousands of people right here in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
88% of all donations are spent on life changing programs
If you want to do the most good with your donation, you're in the right place.
Volunteers of America helps thousands of people right here in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia
We pull together around here. Whether you make tax-deductible charitable car donations in Baltimore or Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., Arlington, Lanham, Woodbridge, Leesburg, Falls Church or Seat Pleasant, you know your donated vehicle is helping people in your area.
Volunteers of America Chesapeake is an official IRS designated 501 (c)(3) charity