Know the Tax Rules for Charitable Donations

Recession has shifted giving from money into household items and valuables.

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The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, deals this week with how to correctly manage tax deductions for donations.

Q. This year donation of items to charities is way up. This has been a great boost to people who really need our help, and it's also a good way to reduce your taxes through deductions. If you are making donations to charities, I'd like to know what your experiences have been and how you are ensuring you will be able to take the deduction.

A. Household items and clothing must be in good used condition or better in order for you to get a deduction. However, if you donate a single item worth over $500 you can claim a deduction, no matter its condition, but you have to submit an appraisal from a qualified appraiser. You can deduct furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, linens. Generally you can only get the fair market value for the items, basically what they will sell for at a thrift shop, like the Salvation Army. Special rules apply to donating cars, food, art objects, jewelry, furs and collections.

A. Make sure the charity you are donating to is one that is approved by the IRS. The list of qualified charities is on IRS.gov, just type in "Publication 78" in the search box. You can access it online and also download it. If you are claiming a donation of $5,000 or less you need to fill out Section A of IRS Form #8283, but you don't need a formal appraisal. If you claim a donation over $5,000 you need to fill out Section B of IRS form #8283. You will probably also have to submit an appraisal from a qualified appraiser. By the way, you can deduct the fee for the appraisal as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Form 1040.

A. My mother had a couple of fur coats that I wanted to donate, but I don't like the people-wearing-animal-fur thing. I found out about the "Coats for Cubs" program from the Humane Society. Furs are given to wildlife rehabilitators, who use them to warm and comfort orphaned wildlife. You can deduct up to $5,000, but you will need an appraisal. Make sure you take a picture of the fur and get a letter from the Humane Society documenting that they received your gift. Someone else on Boomerater mentioned they donated furs to the ASPCA, who uses furs to comfort abandoned cats and dogs.

A. Please donate eye glasses and hearing aids to Lions Club International. There are so many people around the world that you can give the gift of sight or the gift of hearing with your donation.

Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers offering local and national information, from New York financial advisors to California assisted living facilities. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to Boomerater.com and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.