The most effective strategy to minimize income taxes each April is to think about it all year long. Donating your time and belongings to charitable organizations offers potential tax deductions, and provides you with a sense of accomplishment for helping others. The challenge is how much to claim on your taxes without risking an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit. Although the IRS provides guidelines on deductible mileage for charitable activities, it is silent on how you can assess a specific value on donated clothing. Rather than guessing, consider multiple estimation approaches, and decide the most appropriate for your situation.
Things You'll Need
- Receipts from donation
- Original receipts for donated items
- Thrift store clothing values
- Fair market value chart
- IRS Form 8283
Gather receipts from charitable organizations. Typically, the organization will sign for receipt of goods, but determining the clothing value is your responsibility. You should determine the value at the time of donation, but if you have not already done so, you’ll have to handle it as part of your tax preparation.
Separate donation items by kind, and record quantities of each. Keeping a detailed list of the donated items helps you estimate the value of the items, and provides written proof of the donation if the IRS ever requests details.
Review original receipts for donated items. Although you cannot deduct the clothing’s value at the time of purchase on your taxes, it does give you a baseline for calculations. In most cases, 25 percent of the purchase price is an acceptable deduction value.
Obtain thrift store values for clothing items without receipts. Estimating clothing values for taxes means using the current fair market value of the goods. Find out what similar items sell for at your local second hand shop, and apply that value for each donated clothing item.
Use a donated value chart. Many charitable organizations publish fair market value charts for use in determining the value of donated clothing items. Although they provide a range, you must decide if your donation falls on the high or low end of the range. If you use the maximum recommended values for each item, take pictures of the items to prove the quality.
Record donations over $500 on IRS Form 8283. You must complete the form in full, including information on the original price and the purchase date of donated items.
Tips & Warnings
- You are not required to report charitable contributions. You may only deduct donations if you itemize your deductions on IRS Schedule A.
- Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether the donated clothing has a designer label, or comes from a discount clothing chain. For donation purposes, all labels are the same value.
- Always deal with qualified charitable institutions to ensure deductibility of your donation. If you aren’t dealing with a church, government organization or large national charity, contact the IRS to confirm qualifications. You may also check IRS Publication 78 for a complete list of qualified charitable institutions.