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Follow these 5 critical steps so you won't be a victim of scams when you make tax-deductible automobile donations

Weighing the idea of making vehicle donations to a charity to save money on your taxes? There are no shortage of charities competing for your donation! Sadly some of the so-called charities that call to you from local commercials and billboards are nothing more than wolves in sheep's clothing - people who operate extremely profitable businesses by taking advantage of the laws regarding tax-deductible automobile donations. All of them donate a fraction of their profits to charity - they have to in order to keep their status as a non-profit or charity. But the percentage they donate to charity can be shockingly low, sometimes as low as 1%. Some even form their own charity and staff it with relatives!

So how do you cut through the clutter to find an authentic charity for vehicle donations? Here are 5 key areas that will help you make sure your tax-deductible automobile donations help the people who really need it:

1: Eliminate the middleman

When making vehicle donations, donate directly to the charity whenever possible. Questionable car charity donation programs are almost always middlemen happy to take your tax-deductible automobile donations, sell them, donate a small part to a charitable organization, and pocket the rest for 'operating costs' When you deal with a middleman, the amount you donate gets sliced twice, once for the overhead of the middleman car organization, and once for the operating costs of the charity. Your gift goes farther when you give your car to a charity that takes vehicle donations directly, like Volunteers of America in Nevada. An average of 88% of donations made to Volunteers of America go to local programs. In Nevada our life-changing programs include emergency food and shelter, homeless prevention programs, substance abuse counseling and crisis intervention.

2: Give your charity a check-up

Finding the best charity for automobile donations doesn't have to be a guessing game - the online community has a couple of easy ways you can weigh and measure any charity you want to contribute 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 organizations spend their money, whether the group represents itself truthfully, and the organization's willingness to share basic information to the public. Another valuable resource for people looking to make tax-deductible vehicle donations 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.

Better Business Bureau Charity Reviews:

GuideStar Ratings:

3: More is always better

When making any kind of tax-deductible automobile donations, the bigger slice of your contribution that goes into programs that help people in your area, the better. The Internal Revenue Service doesn't have a set percentage that a car donation program has to contribute to charity – you might be surprised to learn that some so called 'charity' car donation programs actually give less than 10% to any charity. When you're deciding about vehicle donations it's wise to take the time to uncover just how much of your generous donation will make its way into programs that help people. Reputable charities will make that information available on their website, or in an online copy of their annual report. You can also find their 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 essential programs such as emergency food and shelter, youth services, senior housing and job training for nearly 2 million Americans, including thousands right here in Nevada.

4: Help people close to home

If the organization you're thinking of donating a vehicle to is unclear about the programs they offer and where they offer them, it can be a warning sign. If you like the idea of helping people near where you live, look for a charity that does good work in your area or state. When you make tax-deductible automobile donations, donating to a charity with community programs near you can provide another advantage - you can look in on the programs you donated to, and see how your donation is changing lives. Right here in Nevada, Volunteers of America serves thousands of meals a year to people fighting the tough economy, shelters hundreds of men, women and children while providing life skills training, counseling and other support, and provides mental health services to people in Nevada who might otherwise be forgotten.

5: Make sure that the charity is an official IRS designated 501(c)(3) charity

If you make tax-deductible automobile donations, make sure your vehicle donations go to a 501(c)(3) charity - an official designation only the Federal Government can provide. If the 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 IRS a check for back taxes, plus interest and penalties. If you want a legitimate tax deduction for automobile donations, donate to an official 501(c)(3) charity.

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Vehicle Donations: Donate to Volunteers
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Here are 5 key ways Volunteers of America in Nevada rises above the scammers:
  1. We eliminated the middleman
    We don't donate money to charity – we are the charity. When you make automobile donations to Volunteers of
    America Nevada, you are donating directly to the organization that helps hundreds right here in Nevada.
  2. Highly rated by GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau
    Volunteers of America GuideStar Rating
    Volunteers of America Better Business Bureau Review
  3. 88% of all donations go directly into life changing programs
    If you want to do the most good with your donation, you're in the right place.
  4. Volunteers of America helps hundreds of people right here in Nevada
    We pull together in Nevada. Whether you make tax-deductible vehicle donations in Las Vegas or Reno, Carson City, Paradise, Henderson or Elko, you can be confident your donated truck or car is helping people in a Nevada community.
  5. Volunteers of America Nevada is an official IRS designated 501 (c)(3) charity
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