Charitable contributions - claim what you are entitled to

You know IRS only audits about 1 percent of all individual income tax returns.

But all returns are not the same. With the complexity of our tax laws, many returns are fairly complicated. There are some published "averages" by income levels for charitable contributions, mortgage interest, etc.

However, if your return claims large charitable deductions, it does not mean you will be audited. You do need to save all your supporting documents.

If you have given furniture, clothing, etc. to a non-profit organization and the total deduction for those items is more than $500, you need to include Form 8283 as part of your return.

That form merely asks for more information and details of your gifts of property. If you make a list of the items, the estimated original cost and are reasonable in determining the estimated fair market value, by all means claim the deduction. The form asks for the date of each contribution, the name and address of the charity among other things.

We suggest you make the list as you put the items in the box or sacks - before you deliver to the charity.

We suggest photographs of key items be done before you deliver them to the charity.

Yes, we know the charities do not always give a detailed receipt. You should get a receipt and save it with your list of items given and how you determined the fair market value (deduction).

Don't hesitate to claim deductions you are entitled to claim. And, don't "fear" the IRS. If they ask for more details and information, provide it promptly.

If you made large contributions by check, of course save the checks and bank statements.

If you gave a vehicle, truck, boat or airplane worth more than $500 you will need an appraisal and receipt or Form 1098-C from the charity to document the deduction. That's not a problem, but the appraisal should be dated near the time of the gift.

Some folks give more than can be currently deducted (there are limits of course). The excess carries over for up to five years and can save taxes then.

If you gave it, and you have adequate records and documentation, claim the deduction.

Did you hear "You should hammer your iron when it is glowing hot" by Pubilius Syrus.

If you moved that year, you probably gave quite a bit of "stuff" to a non-profit charity.

• John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser serving Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs, LLC.


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