Tax Breaks for Charitable Giving

Charity fund-raising reached a peak during the holiday season.  Friends and family made donations in your name, and charities appealed for help at every corner and in every day’s mail. We wanted to give you some advice to understand the complex IRS rules.  With tax season in full swing, many charitable contributions are deductible and we want to make sure you know about them.


  1. Beat The Clock

Donations must be made before Dec. 31st.  If you mail a check make sure you mail it a few days early so the Postal Service has time to postmark the envelope.  A donation made by credit card is deductible in the year the charge is incurred even though you may not pay the bill until the following year.

  1. Give-away Items

If you are donating items, the IRS requires that the items be in “good condition or better.”  You can get valuations at Goodwill ( ) or the Salvation Army (  A good rule-of-thumb: Ask yourself if you’d give the item to a friend or relative.

  1. Keep Good Records

You must keep good records of all your donations. The type of documentation will depend on the amount of contributions and whether they were cash or non-cash donations.

If you donate a cash amount of $250 or more to a charity you must have a written acknowledgement for the charity showing the amount and date of the contribution.  The document must also say whether you received any goods or services for your donation. Most charities send these out automatically, but be sure to check.

For non-cash contributions, it will depend on the amount. For small contributions under $250 you must get a receipt from the charity. For more than $5,000 you must have an appraisal.

  1. Deduct Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You can deduct volunteer activities.  While you cannot deduct the value of your time, you may be able to write off some expenses or costs.  For example, if you are baking pies for a fundraiser, you can deduct the cost of baking supplies.  Make sure to keep a record of all these expenses. Also, be aware that some expenses may require an acknowledgement from the charity.

If you use your car for charity work, you can deduct $0.14 a mile.  Your written records must include the name of the organization and the dates you used your car for charitable purposes.

Make sure you are donating to a charity that is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. You can search the IRS database here (  For any questions or concerns with tax preparation give Hornstein Financial a call at 818.887.9401.  We are always glad to help.