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21 Nov 2023

Smart Giving: Mastering the Art of Non-Cash Charitable Contributions for Tax Advantages

As a tax and accounting services firm, we often encounter clients eager to contribute to their favorite charities. While cash donations are straightforward, non-cash charitable contributions, such as donating goods, property, or stocks, can be a powerful way to give back and simultaneously enjoy tax benefits. However, these types of donations come with their own set of rules and complexities.

Understanding Non-Cash Contributions


Non-cash charitable contributions are donations of property other than cash to qualified organizations. These can include clothing, household items, stocks, real estate, and even vehicles. The tax benefits of such donations are appealing, but they require careful documentation and adherence to IRS guidelines.

Determining the Value of Your Donation


The value of non-cash contributions is generally the fair market value (FMV) of the property at the time of the donation. FMV is the price that property would sell for on the open market. However, there are exceptions:

  • Items in Good Used Condition or Better: For clothing and household items, the taxpayer must consider the item’s condition. The IRS only allows deduction for these items if they are in good used condition or better.
  • Stocks and Securities: For stocks and securities held for more than one year, the FMV is typically the average between the high and low prices on the donation date.
  • Real Estate and Vehicles: Appraisals are often required for these types of donations, especially if the value exceeds certain thresholds.

Documenting Your Donation


Proper documentation is crucial for non-cash contributions, especially for donations valued at more than $250. The documentation should include:

  • Written Acknowledgment: For donations over $250, you must obtain a written acknowledgement from the charity that includes the date of the contribution, the FMV of the property, and whether the charity provided any good or services in exchange for the donation.
  • Form 8283 for Donations Over $500: For donations exceeding $500, IRS Form 8283 must be completed and attached to your tax return.
  • Appraisal for Donations Over $5,000: If the donation is worth more than $5,000, an appraisal is typically required to substantiate the claimed value.

Limitations on Deductions


It’s important to note that there are limitations to how much you can deduct. Generally, the deduction cannot exceed 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but lower limits (30% or 20%) may apply depending on the type of property donated and the organization receiving the donation. Any excess can be carried forward for up to five years.

Special Considerations for Corporations


Coporate donors also need to navigate specific rules. Corporations can generally deduct non-cash contributions up to 10% of their taxable income. The valuation and documentation requirements are similar to those for individual donors, but the strategic implications can be different, especially concerning public relations and corporate social responsibility goals.

Record-Keeping and Compliance


Maintaining detailed records is vital. This includes keeping receipts, appraisals, and detailed lists of donated items. For businesses, proper record-keeping is important for tax purposes, financial reporting, and compliance with accounting standards.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls


One of the common pitfalls in non-cash charitable contributions is overestimating the value of donated items. This can attract unwanted IRS attention. Another potential issue is donating to non-qualified organizations, which won’t qualify for a tax deduction.

Non-cash charitable contributions provide a meaningful avenue to support worthy causes while capitalizing on potential tax benefits. However, navigating the intricate web of tax regulations and valuation procedures associated with these types of donations can be daunting. That’s where the expertise of tax professionals, like those at Better Accounting, becomes invaluable. Our skilled team is adept at steering clients through these complexities, ensuring compliance with tax laws, and optimizing tax advantage.

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