From the IRS (with commentary from your local estate planning/probate attorney in Altus in red):
If you are looking for a tax deduction, giving to charity can be a ‘win-win’ situation. It’s good for them and good for you. Here are eight things you should know about deducting your gifts to charity:
1. You must donate to a qualified charity if you want to deduct the gift. You can’t deduct gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates. (Good advice. In addition, you need to remember that not all tax-exempt organizations are “qualified charities.” An example of such an organization is one involved in lobbying.)
2. In order for you to deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return. (The standard deduction this year for a single individual is $6,100 and $12,200 for married couples. In addition, if you are older than 65 or blind, there can be an additional $1,200 or $1,500 on top of that. So, you may not get a benefit from such a donation.)
3. If you get a benefit in return for your contribution, your deduction is limited. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that’s more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of such benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.
4. If you give property instead of cash, the deduction is usually that item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market. (There is also a limit of your cost basis in many situations. If you are looking at giving appreciated property, or property that was business property that has been depreciated, then you should consult your tax attorney or CPA.)
5. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
6. You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, if your deduction for all noncash gifts is more than $500 for the year.
7. You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you make during the year. The kind of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation. For example, you must have a written record of any cash you donate, regardless of the amount, in order to claim a deduction. It can be a cancelled check, a letter from the organization, or a bank or payroll statement. It should include the name of the charity, the date and the amount donated. A cell phone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.
8. To claim a deduction for donated cash or property of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the organization. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.