2015 Tax year Charitable Contributions
Contributions are deductible in the tax year they're made, but many people put off donating until the last minute. Fortunately, you have until December 31 to donate for the 2015 tax year. Donations made online, by phone or using social media that are charged to a credit card on or before midnight on December 31 count for 2015 - even if the bill isn't paid until 2016. Mailed checks also count for 2015 as long as they're postmarked no later than December 31.
If you plan to deduct a sizable charitable contribution on your 2015 tax return, consult with your tax adviser before year end to ensure you're following all the rules.
Following IRS Guidelines
In order to deduct charitable contributions on your personal tax return, you must itemize deductions and follow these rules:
- Your contributions must be made to "qualified" organizations. To see whether an organization qualifies, visit the IRS's online search tool, Exempt Organizations Select Check. Giving money to an individual or a foreign organization generally isn't deductible, except for donations made to certain qualifying Canadian not-for-profits.
- For a charitable donation of cash, regardless of the amount, you must have a bank record or a written document from the charity. Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements. These statements should show the name of the charity, the date and the amount paid. Credit card statements should also show the transaction posting date.
- Clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better. However, this requirement may be waived for deductions of clothing or household items of more than $500 if you include a qualified appraisal with the return. Household items include furniture, electronics, appliances and linens.
If a contribution entitles you to merchandise, goods or services, including admission to a charity ball, banquet, theatrical performance or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.