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car donation appraisal | car donation tax deduction

Want to cut your 2011 or 2012 Federal taxes with a charitable tax deduction? Follow these 8 Important Steps, whether you donate cash or want a car donation tax deduction.

Would you like to pay Uncle Sam less while helping out a worthy cause? Then make a donation to a charity before the end of the year. The US Tax code changes every year, but the Internal Revenue Service still lets you deduct donations to charity from the tax you owe...as long as your donation goes to a qualified charity, and you itemize your deductions (including a car donation appraisal if necessary). The following 8 tips are critical whether you donate cash, property, or even a used vehicle, boat or RV.

1: Make sure you see the 501 (c)(3).

If you don't want the IRS to disallow your deduction, make sure you make your contribution to a qualified charity. The safest bet is to make your donation to a 501(c)(3) organization. It has to be a charitable organization - you can't deduct contributions to individuals, political organizations or people running for office. If you want more information about finding the right organization to get a tax deduction from, whether you want a deduction for writing a check or a car donation tax deduction, go to the IRS website and download Publication 526.

2: Show your car donation appraisal - You can't get a tax deduction if you don't itemize.

That's the beginning and end of it. If you want a tax write off you have to file Form 1040 and itemize your deductions on Schedule A.

3: If you get anything in return, you better put it on your return.

If the charity you contribute to gives you anything in return for your contribution, like the free vacation vouchers some charity car donation organizations offer, you need to subtract its value from the amount you donated. The amount left over is the amount you can deduct. This goes for any goods or services you get in exchange for your donation - tickets, vacation vouchers, gift cards or any merchandise. Do the math, it's not worth the risk.

4: Specific types of donations have specific types of deductions.

You can usually value stock or other non-cash property at fair market value. Used household items or clothes usually have to be in pretty good condition if you want to deduct their value. If you're donating a used vehicle like a car or truck to charity, reputable charities like Volunteers of America (CarsHelpingPeople.org) will provide you with car donation appraisal paperwork for your tax deduction.

5: Get to know the fair market value.

Most of the time fair market value is the amount that someone who wants to buy property, a vehicle or an item would pay someone who is selling it, when both of them have no pressure to buy or sell and all of the facts of the property, item or vehicle are known.

6: If you don't have a record, the IRS won't play.

If the contribution you want to write off is cash, a check or another kind of monetary gift, the IRS requires you to have to have an acceptable record of it. Acceptable records include payroll deduction records, bank records or a written receipt from the charity that includes the name of the charity, the date of your contribution and the amount you donated. If you make a donation to a charity via a text message, you can use your phone bill as proof - if your phone bill shows the name of the charity you contributed to, along with the date and amount of your donation. And of course a car donation tax deduction requires a copy of your car donation appraisal.

7: The other side of records.

You need the same kind of records outlined above if you make a contribution of cash or property to a charity that is worth $250 or more. You have to show a bank statement or record, payroll deduction slips or a printed receipt outlining the worth of your monetary contribution, or a detailed description of the property you contributed. The receipt or records need to show whether the charity gave you any services or goods in exchange for your donation. According to the IRS, you can often use the same documentation to outline the written description of monetary gifts and the acknowledgement the IRS requires for gifts of $250 or more. If your total non-cash deduction for the year is over $500 you will need to fill out IRS Form 8283 and attach it to your tax return.

8. A final note for the ultra-generous.

If you donate property or items worth $5000 or more you need to complete Section B of Form 8283. To do that you usually need to get an appraisal.

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