the archivist December 6, 2007

So my yard sale left me with far too many clothes items (both mine and other family members) from bygone years. After some research about the new tax laws, I decided to donate them all to Goodwill and take an itemized deduction. Why? Well, my used clothes have never sold terribly well on ebay, for one thing. The collective IQ there seems to have plummeted as well, so I spend my time fielding questions already answered in the listing, taking pointless complaints, and even (on one occasion) receiving negative feedback because the buyer didn’t understand the measurement units used in the listing! I chose Goodwill because 83% of donations go to the intended recipients, unlike many charities that pad their own pockets. Also, your donation to Goodwill helps in several ways: they employ individuals who would otherwise have trouble entering the workplace, plus the money raised from direct donations and from the sale of donated goods goes to help other people in need. Lastly, they are recognized by the IRS, so you don’t have to worry about your deduction being questioned later on, as long as you follow the rules.

I’m no tax advisor, but just so you know what I’m talking about, the rules are basically:

  • This year, you need a receipt for all donations. In the past, you could claim up to $250 without a receipt.
  • Many charitable organizations (including churches and non-profits)  are recognized by the IRS, so that you can claim up to 50% of your income in donations to them. For the ones who don’t have this status with the IRS, you can claim 20% or 30%, depending.
  • You cannot deduct donations to an individual. So you could give to your church, but not your minister, even if there was an occasion of special need.
  • You can deduct certain expenses related to charitable giving. You’d best take a look-see here.

With Goodwill, you write up your receipt with what you think your donated items are worth, and then take it in to an attended donation center. If the attendant finds the items to be in “good, used condition” (his/her discretion, it seems), he or she will sign off on the receipt, and you’re merrily on your way. Today I spent all morning going through old clothes and writing up the “good condition ones.” It took all of 5 minutes to make the donation itself, and I walked away with a receipt for $300 to deduct on my taxes. Plus a clean closet. Yippee! I see they also take books, so I might have to make another trip this holiday season!

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