Mar 27

From the IRS: Eight Tax Tips about Deducting Charitable Contributions

When you give a gift to charity that helps the lives of others in need. It may also help you at tax time. You may be able to claim the gift as a deduction that may lower your tax. Here are eight tax tips you should know about deducting your gifts to charity:

1. Qualified Charities.  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. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool.

2. Itemized Deduction.  To deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return.

3. Benefit in Return.  If you get something in return for your donation, your deduction is limited. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that is more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

4. Donated Property.  If you gave 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.

5. Clothing and Household Items.  Used clothing and household items must be in at least good condition to be deductible in most cases. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations. See Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for more on these rules.

6. Form 8283.  You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, if your deduction for all noncash gifts is more than $500 for the year.

7. Records to Keep.  You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you made 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. For more about what records to keep refer to Publication 526.

8. Donations of $250 or More.  To claim a deduction for donated cash or goods of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity. 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.

As a tax and estate planning attorney, I can say that good records and paperwork are worth their weight in gold. From the tax standpoint, it is a great feeling to be able to prove everything in the case you do receive an audit. From the estate planning side, it helps clients to rest easy if they know that their wishes as expressed in their last will and testament or living trust are ironclad and their legacy will pass without much hassle to their children or beneficiaries.

Mar 26

Last 20 days of the 2014 tax season!

With today being March 26, there are only 20 days left to make a timely filing of your individual tax returns. This also means only 20 days to make any late contributions to your IRA for the 2014 tax year.

With all of the recent changes in the tax code (some related to Obamacare, and others just to tax changes by Congress), I can honestly say that I am not sad to see this season go.

If you have not had your return prepared, then get on the ball and call your tax preparer. If you need more time, then you can file for an automatic extension of time to file, but that is not an automatic extension of time to pay.

If you feel that you will owe money this year (I’m looking at you farmers and ranchers that received large LFP payments this year), then you should still make an estimated payment on your 2014 taxes because amounts owed will incur penalties and interest from April 15.

If I can help in any way, I will gladly do my best. Your friendly, neighborhood estate planning attorney is on the job.