Donating to Charity
Before you donate money or goods, research the charity. Be certain that the charity is real. Several agencies offer tips, databases, and reports that help you evaluate the operation of charities:
- The Internal Revenue Service offers tax tips for donors and an exempt organization databaseto check the charity’s 501(c)3 status (a charity must have this number if you plan to deduct your gift on your federal taxes).
- The attorney general in your state often licenses charitable organizations. They may also have records of complaints about charities.
- The Better Business Bureau offers reports about how large charities work and use their funds.
Types of Donations
Make financial donations by check or credit card, to protect yourself from scams and help with your record keeping.
Goods and Personal Property
Some charities accept non-cash donations, such as clothing and household items. Donate items that are in good (or better) condition. Keep a list of the items you donated, for your taxes.
You can donate your car, truck, boat, or other vehicle to a charity. An organization may give a donated vehicle to someone, use it for operations, or sell it at auction. If you donate a vehicle, you will need to transfer the title of the to the charity. Also, remove license plates and registration documents before you donate the car.
You may also give other types of items to charities:
- Real Estate
The value of these items may require an expert appraisal or depend on offers to purchase the items and the timing of the donation.
Some scammers set up fake organizations, to take advantage of the public’s generosity. They especially take advantage of tragedies and disasters.
Report Charity Scams
- Your state consumer protection office can accept and investigate consumer complaints.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC does not resolve individual matters. But it does track charity fraud claims and sues companies on the behalf of consumers.
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud, if the suspected fraud is because of a natural disaster.
The Do Not Call Registry doesn’t apply to charities. But you can ask an organization not to contact you again.
How to Protect Yourself
- Check out the charity with your state consumer protection office or the Better Business Bureaubefore you give.
- Verify the name. Fake charities often choose names that are close to well established charities.
- Don’t give in to high pressure tactics such as urging you to donate immediately.
- Don’t assume that you can get a tax deduction for donating to an organization. Use the IRS’s database of 501(c)3 organizations to find out if it has this status.
- Don’t send cash. Pay with a check or credit card.
You may be able to claim a deduction on your federal taxes if you donated to a 501(c)3 organization. In order to deduct your donations you must file an itemized federal tax return, Schedule A and form 8283 for your non-cash donations.
The amount of money that you can deduct on your taxes may not be equal to the total amount of your donations.
- If you donate non-cash items, you can claim the fair market value of the items on your taxes.
- If you donated a vehicle, the amount of your deduction depends on if the car is used by the organization or sold at an auction. “A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation (PDF, Download Adobe Reader)” explains how your deduction is determined.
- If you donated money and you received a gift in exchange or if part of your contribution paid for an event entrance, you can only deduct the amount that is in excess of the value of the gift or event.
Keep records of your donations to charities. You may not have to send these documents with your tax returns, but these documents are good to include with your other tax records. Common documents include:
- Canceled check to the organization
- Credit card statement showing a payment to the organization
- Receipt from the organization
- Annual giving statement from the charity or non-profit
- Email confirmation from the organization
- Written acknowledgment for vehicle donations
- Itemized list of the items you donated
- Vehicle identification number for vehicle donations
- Signed over vehicle title
- Phone bill, if you gave a donation through a text message
- Valuations of stocks, real estate, art, or jewelry donated to a charity
There are some pieces of information that may be included in receipts and giving statements:
- Name of the organization
- Date of the donation
- Amount of the donation
- Statement that no goods or services were provided by the charity in return for your donation (if that was the case)
- Vehicle identification number (VIN) for vehicle donations
Federal Tax Deductions for Small Business Charitable Donations
Small businesses and individuals generally have the same requirements when filing to receive a tax deduction for charitable giving. However, there are some important issues companies should know about.
- Donated services are not deductible, however, out-of-pocket expenses associated with the donation may be deductible. This may include travel expenses and materials.
- Donated non-food inventory must be reported according to specific requirements. These requirements are different than those regarding donated vehicles.
- Donated food must be reported according to specific requirements.
- Donated intellectual property must be reported according to specific requirements.
Many small businesses donate to charity in some form each year. Giving to a charitable cause is not only good for society, it can also be good for business.
Reasons Businesses Donate
Small businesses decide to support charitable causes for a variety of reasons:
- Help society – Businesses can use their size and influence to make a significant impact in a community, or on behalf of a cause.
- Increase customer satisfaction or brand awareness – Businesses can set themselves apart from the competition and become more likable and recognizable by publicly supporting a cause. Some businesses even choose to involve customers in their charitable campaigns, or support nonprofit organizations with missions that are relevant to the company’s product or service. For example, a technology firm may partner with a charity that teaches computer skills to underprivileged students.
- Tax deductions – Businesses can receive a tax deduction for qualifying charitable donations.
- Employee retention and satisfaction – Businesses can improve employee morale and create a more positive company culture by mobilizing in support of a cause. Some companies allow employees to nominate charities to partner with, or choose the way the company donates.
Types of Donations
Businesses can donate to a charitable cause in many ways:
- Money – Write a check, set aside a portion of revenue from sales, or collect donations from employees. Some companies may also offer to match employee donations, or choose to develop a specific product or service and donate the profits from its sale.
- Inventory – Give merchandise or products like food, clothing, toiletries, furniture, or building materials.
- Events – Organize food, clothing, supply, or blood drives. Companies can also sponsor sports teams, athletic competitions, arts productions, community projects, and fundraisers.
- Volunteer – Work for free. Nonprofit organizations may need tutors, drivers, servers, or warehouse staff, for example. Companies can schedule a time for employees to volunteer together or encourage staff to sign up in their free time. Some businesses may choose to offer paid time off for volunteering.
- Services – Donate professional skills. Nonprofit organizations may need help in the legal, policy, medical, dental, counseling, finance, technology, or administrative fields, among others. For example, beauticians may coordinate with a women’s shelter to style hair or give manicures, and artists may work with a community center to lead a children’s craft.
- Time – Establish a leave-based donation program. This allows employees to forego their paid leave days in exchange for the company making a monetary donation to a charity.