Heed the rules for deducting charitable contributions

Sticking to the rules when making charitable contributions can save tax dollars. Here are three tips.

* Recordkeeping is vital if you want to be able to deduct a contribution to charity.

What records do you need? For starters, to claim an itemized deduction, you’re required to have support for all cash contributions, no matter what the amount. A bank statement, a copy of the cancelled check, or a credit card record will usually suffice for donations under $250. For donations of $250 or more, a statement from the charity is required, giving the charity’s name, the date, the amount of your donation, and the value of goods and services received for the donation, if any. In the case of payroll donations, your pay stub or W-2 can back up your deduction.

The substantiation rules for noncash donations such as household items differ depending on the type of property and its value. For instance, you’ll need a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity for donations of $250 or more. As a general rule, “contemporaneous” means you receive the acknowledgment before you file your return or before the due date of your return, whichever is earlier.

* Make a gift from your IRA. The break allowing a transfer of up to $100,000 from your IRA to a qualified charity is available for 2011. To benefit, you must be over age 70½, and the contribution has to be a direct payment from your IRA to the charitable organization.

* Write down your vehicle mileage for charitable driving. Written records rule, whether you claim the standard mileage deduction of 14¢ a mile or actual expenses. Make sure your log or other paperwork includes the name of the charity, the date, and the miles you drove or the total cost you incurred.

 

 

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