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While donating to charity is its own reward, many companies and individuals alike enjoy the additional tax benefits that a charity donation can provide. Charity donations are tax deductible expenses, which can lower the amount that you pay in tax. These donations can be useful, but they have specific requirements that do not apply to all taxpayers.
In order to take a charitable contribution deduction, you will first need to be itemizing your expenses. This is important to keep in mind, because most American taxpayers dont itemize their expenses, but instead take the standard deduction. As of 2011, the standard deduction for individuals was $5,800. For married couples filing jointly and taxpayers filing as head of household the standard deduction was $11,600. In order to itemize your expenses, your deductions must exceed these standard deduction amounts. Otherwise, there will be no additional tax benefit for your charitable contribution.
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To be deducted, the charitable contribution must have been made either in cash or in property that is in good condition. Volunteer services cannot be deducted as a charitable contribution. If you contribute property worth more than $500, a separate tax form will need to be attached. If the property you contributed was worth more than $5,000, you will need to obtain and keep a written appraisal.
Charitable contributions must be donated, not just pledged or promised, in the year that you are filing taxes for. If the contribution was made via credit card, the transaction posting date should be used as the date of contribution, rather than the date that the balance was paid off.
The charity organization must be registered as a tax-exempt charity. Political campaign contributions do not count as charitable donations, nor do international charities that are not registered in the United States as charitable organizations. Luckily, most international charities do register with the United States.
You must retain evidence of your contribution. This can include canceled checks, bank statements, receipts, acknowledgement letters, and any other documentation of your contribution provided by the charity. If donating property, you must keep record of how the fair market value of this property was determined. If an appraisal was required, proof of the appraisal should be kept.
Charitable contributions can deduct up to 50% of your AGI, or adjusted gross income. Donations of property may be deducted up to 30%. Contributions in excess of these limits may be carried over to subsequent years to a maximum of five years.
If you meet all the qualifications for taking a charitable deduction, it can be an excellent way to reduce your overall tax burden. It is important to remember that most American households do not qualify for charitable contributions, and that those that do should be vigilant about keeping solid records in case of an audit.
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