Updated for filing tax year 2022 returns.
Can I get a tax break for charitable donations?
Absolutely—you can get a tax break for donating all sorts of things to a qualified charity or organization, from used household items to collectibles, clothes, and even property. Expenses that build up because of volunteering activities are also deductible.
Important: The rules for deducting charitable contributions have changed for tax year 2022. Last year, an above-the-line deduction was available to taxpayers who chose the standard deduction. Now, a deduction for charitable donations—whether for cash donations or donating goods—is only available to those who itemize.
Qualified charitable organizations
When donating, make sure it's to a qualified charity. Charities must meet IRS requirements in order to receive tax-deductible donations. The charities may be one of the following types:
- Scientific, literary, and educational
- Dedicated to the prevention of cruelty to children or animals
For a complete list of charities and to search for specific organizations, use the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check tool.
Keeping a record of charitable donations
When donating, make sure you get a receipt or acknowledgment from the charity. Otherwise, you won't be able to claim a deduction for your contributions.
This is especially true for any donation—cash or goods—worth over $250. For those, you must also have a written acknowledgment from the organization that notes any goods or services provided in exchange for your contribution.
The receipt or acknowledgment should include the following:
- Name of charity
- Your name
- Date of donation
- Fair market value of donation
- Value of any goods or services you received in return for your donation
If the goods and services received from donating to a religious organization are exclusively used for religious purposes (like wine used in a ceremony), the acknowledgment must describe them as "intangible religious benefits."
If you plan on donating money—whether by cash, check, or credit card—you’ll need a receipt, especially if you donate more than $250. In that case, you’ll also need a note from the organization as listed above.
For more information about donating to charities, see IRS Publication 526.
Donating goods and property
Items like used clothing and household items in good condition can be donated, and the deduction will be determined by fair market value (generally what the item would sell for at a consignment or thrift store).
Some charities, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, have a donation value guide, but most don’t. For more information, check out IRS Publication 561.
Depending on the value of your donation, you may have to have it professionally appraised before donating it. Items like jewelry, collectible cars, art, and antiques may or may not need appraising.
Donating motor vehicles, like cars or boats, worth over $500 means you'll need to attach a Form 1098-C to your tax return when you file. The charity you donated to should send the form within 30 days of the donation or within 30 days after it was sold by the organization. Take a look at IRS Publication 4303, A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation, for details about donating vehicles.
Deducting volunteer work
You may have incurred some unreimbursed expenses while volunteering throughout the year, and some of those expenses could be deductible—provided that the primary purpose of the expense was for the charitable organization and its work.
You can deduct costs for required uniforms, stamps or stationery, and even mileage. Any unreimbursed lodging, meals, or transportation expenses required as part of your service to the charity can be deducted.
As with donating goods, keep any receipts or paperwork in order to prove your deduction.
Feel good about tax breaks for charitable contributions with 1040.com
Whether you claim the itemized charitable deduction or take the standard deduction, 1040.com makes entering your info simple and straightforward for just one flat $25 tax-filing rate. Now that feels good!