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IRS offers Alabamians tips for year-end donations

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded Alabamians that giving can benefit charities and those they serve and can also provide a tax deduction for some donors.

Charitable donations to qualified organizations are deductible only for donors who itemize deductions on their federal tax return.

In 2007, more than 551,000 Alabama filers deducted about $2.95 billion in charitable contributions. Approximately 2 million federal income tax returns were filed that year by Alabamians.

“Individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years,” said IRS spokesman Dan Boone.

Some of these changes include the following.

Special Charitable Contributions for Certain IRA Owners

An IRA owner, age 70 1⁄2 or over, can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charitable organization. This option, created in 2006 and recently extended through 2009, is available to eligible IRA owners, regardless of whether they itemize their deductions. Distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, including SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans, are not eligible.

To qualify, the funds must be contributed directly by the IRA trustee to the eligible charity. Amounts so transferred are not taxable and no deduction is available for the amount given to the charity.

Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

Transferred amounts are counted in determining whether the owner has met the IRA’s required minimum distribution rules. Where individuals have made nondeductible contributions to their traditional IRAs, a special rule treats transferred amounts as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information on qualified charitable distributions.

Rules for Clothing and Household Items

To be deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity must be in good used condition or better. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to be in good used condition or better if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, and linens.

Guidelines for Monetary Donations

To deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.

For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

– from staff reports