Thursday, August 26, 2010

10 Things the IRS wants you to know about Charitable Giving

Did you make a donation to a charity this year? If so, you may be able to take a deduction for it on your 2010 tax return.

Here are the top 10 things the IRS wants every taxpayer to know before deducting charitable donations.

1. Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization and most will be able to tell you. You can also check IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, which lists most qualified organizations. IRS Publication 78 is available at

2. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.

3. You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.

4. If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods, or services in return – such as admission to a charity banquet or sporting event – you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

5. Be sure to keep good records of any contribution you make, regardless of the amount. For any contribution made in cash, you must maintain a record of the contribution such as a bank record – including a cancelled check or a bank or credit card statement – a written record from the charity containing the date and amount of the contribution and the name of the organization, or a payroll deduction record.

6. Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity only $200 by Dec. 31, your deduction would be $200.

7. Include credit card charges and payments by check in the year they are given to the charity, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.

8. For any contribution of $250 or more, you must have written acknowledgment from the organization to substantiate your donation. This written proof must include the amount of cash and a description and good faith estimate of value of any property you contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

9. To deduct charitable contributions of items valued at $500 or more you must complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attached the form to your return.

10. An appraisal generally must be obtained if you claim a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000. In that case, you must also fill out Section B of Form 8283 and attach the form to your return.

For more information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations

Publication 526, Charitable Contributions (

Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property (

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What to do with Inherited Property in 2010?

With the repeal of the Estate Tax and Generation Skipping Transfer Tax in 2010, those who inherit assets from someone who dies in 2010 may be forced to deal with some very difficult income tax basis rule changes. If someone dies and their entire estate is less than $1.3M the inherited assets will receive a "step-up" in basis to the fair market value of the asset as of the decedent's date of death. But, if the person who dies in 2010 owned more than $1.3M in assets, then a tax return must be filed with the decedent's final income tax return which would be due April 15, 2011 or such later date as the IRS might prescribe by regulation not yet issued [see IRC Section 6075(a)].

If an heir sells property in 2010 where the asset is included in an estate of a deceased person with more than $1.3 M in property, that individual will need to wait until he or she receives the information required by Internal Revenue Code Section 6018. So far, the IRS has not even published the necessary tax forms to file this report.

Heirs who inherit property from someone who dies in 2010 in excess of $1.3M would do best to NOT sell that asset in 2010. There is an argument that with the sunset of the current tax laws at the end of this year (Section 901 of the EGTRRA) that the basis of assets sold after 2010 from decedents dying in 2010 will be entitled to a step-up in basis under the resurrected Section 1014 of the Internal Revenue Code. No one can say for sure what Congress might do before the end of the year? Stay tuned.