In honor of tax day, we’ll answer one of the most common questions received by charity organizations that accept household donations, including furniture, clothing, silverware, and similar items.
Although it’s likely too late for you to amend your 2015 tax return (tax day was Monday, April 18, 2016 this year), it’s always helpful to have a better understanding of our country’s incredibly complex tax code.
Can I write off household donations on my tax return?
Short answer? Yes, although there are exceptions.
Many people don’t realize that the household donations and clothing they provide to nonprofits like wounded veterans charities are in fact tax deductible, up to a point. When you donate household items, you can deduct the “fair market value” of the item from your taxes. The fair market value doesn’t refer to the item’s original price, but rather a reasonable price for items in good condition. For instance, a new coffee maker can cost anywhere from $25 to $200, but are usually only worth between $4 or $15 as a tax deduction.
A few important exceptions apply when it comes to household donations and tax returns. For instance, you can only write off items or cash donations that are documented with a receipt, which means if you dropped money in the collection plate at church or visited clothing drop off locations you won’t be able to get a deduction. Likewise, only household donations made to charities that are recognized by the IRS are eligible, so check with the nonprofit in question if you are interested in tax benefits.
Items valued at more than $5,000, like certain used cars or artwork, do not qualify as household donations. Even household items valued at more than $500 require the tax filer to fill out Form 8283, which will require a receipt and details about the item’s value.
Keep in mind that even though clothing and household donations are tax deductible, that doesn’t mean they will act as a get out of my taxes free card. In general, the monetary value of charitable donations that you can deduct from your income is limited to 50% of your Adjusted Gross Income.
Not only that, but Congress recently began cracking down on inflated deductions from home and clothing donations. According to TurboTax’s 2015 tax resources, “Congress has clamped down on donations of household goods to make sure folks aren’t inflating the value of their used stuff. No tax deduction is allowed unless an item is in good condition or better. If an item in less-than-good condition is valued at more than $500, you can take a deduction only if you get the item appraised and attach the appraisal to your return. Congress also gave the IRS broad authority to deny deductions for low-value items such as used socks and underwear.”
And don’t forget, even though household donations are tax deductible, they’re also an excellent way to give back to people who truly need a little help. There are a number of nonprofits helping disabled veterans and their families, and many of these organizations will even come to your home to pick up furniture and other items.