How to Deduct Charitable Donations On Your Taxes

Nicolas Cesare  | 

In the United States, it’s possible to deduct charitable donations of all sorts from your taxes for the year. This tax deduction is meant to encourage giving, and the perfect time to do this is around the holidays, when many charities are in overdrive mode and the cold weather increases the need for help in some communities. The holidays are a time for giving, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a little receiving, too.

How to Claim Tax Deductions for Donations

If you plan on donating a lot this holiday season or if you donate often at other times during the year, you’ll want to make sure that you get every tax deduction that you’ve earned. In order to do that, here’s what you need to do to claim all of your tax deductions for charitable contributions.

  • Itemize your tax deduction. You can only claim charitable donations on your taxes if you itemize your deduction. This will mean opting out of the standard deduction, so be sure to crunch the numbers on your taxes before you make this decision. Depending on how much you’ve donated and how much you’re getting in other tax deductions for the year, it may end up being better for you just to take the standard deduction.
  • Record every donation that you make. Tax deductions for charitable contributions are only good if you can prove that you made them. This is where it’s important that you have some kind of record of your donation. One great way to do this is to donate with your credit card. This way you can use your credit card statements as a record of every donation that you made.
  • Donate to 501(c)(3) charities. If a charitable organization carries the 501(c)(3) designation, that means that the IRS has examined their financials and deemed them an appropriate organization to receive tax deductible contributions. You can only claim tax deductions for donations made to 501(c)(3) organizations. In addition, watching for this status will help you decide who you should donate to — donating to these charities will help you to avoid charity scams during the holiday season.

Claiming Tax Deductions for Non-Cash Donations

There are other ways to give besides donating money. If you’re donating without much cash or donating food instead of money, you can still claim these charitable donations on your taxes. For any non-monetary donation, you can count the fair market value of that donation towards your tax deduction for the year.

  • Track non-monetary donations carefully. Here’s another place where using your credit card to donate can be a good idea — if you forget how much you paid for a donated item, you can always go back and check your credit card statement to see how much you paid. You should also take pictures of what you donate. This will help you remember how much of what items you donated and, if you donated used items, what condition those were in and how much they might have been worth. If possible, get a written record of whatever you’re donating from whomever is collecting.
  • Account for the value of what you donate. If you intend to claim over $250 in donations on your taxes, the IRS will require that you have written proof of receipt from the agency that you donated to. If you claim over $500 then you need to fill out IRS Form 8283, tallying up your non-monetary donations for the year. Finally, if you donate an item worth more than $5,000, the IRS will require an appraisal of the item from a qualified professional.
  • Don’t forget about mileage. Many people don’t think about this when it comes time to file taxes, but you can also claim miles driven for charitable purposes as a tax deduction. If you’re volunteering your time to drive around for a 501(c)(3) organization, keep track of how many miles you travel. When it’s time to file your taxes, you can claim the standard mileage rate as a tax deduction. That rate was 14 cents per mile driven for charitable organizations in 2017.

The holiday season is a great time to give to charity. If you plan on claiming your charitable donations on your taxes this year, make sure that you record all of your donations carefully. Donate to certified charities and don’t forget to account for items that you donate that aren’t cash.


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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.

This post was updated October 25, 2017. It was originally published October 28, 2017.