I want to deduct charitable donations. What do I need to know?

If you give money or goods to a charity you may be able to claim a deduction on your federal tax return, which basically reduces the amount of their taxable income. Here are some important facts about charitable donations:

Qualified charities. To receive a deduction, you must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.

Here are examples of things that you can’t deduct:
  • Gifts to individuals
  • Donations to political organizations and candidatesForm to File. You must file Form 8283 for all non-cash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year.
  • Benefit in return. You can only deduct the amount of your donation that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received. If you get something in return for your donation, yu may have to reduce your deduction. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals and tickets to events.
  • Property donation. If you give property instead of cash, you can normally only deduct the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get for the property on the open market. Used clothing and household items donated must generally be in good condition or better. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.
Itemize deductions. To deduct donations, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions using Schedule A.

Proof of Donation. If you donated cash or goods of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity. The statement must show:
  • Amount of the donation.
  • Description of any property given.
  • Whether the you received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

IRS Resources

Interactive Tax Assistant: Can I Deduct My Charitable Contributions?

IRS Tax Topic: Charitable Contributions

Publication 526Charitable Contributions

Publication 561Determining the Value of Donated Property