The holiday season is here, which, among other things, means many charities are in the midst of their busiest time of year with regard to donations. A 2017 study from Guidestar found that 50.5 percent of surveyed nonprofits receive more than half of their donations in the final three months of the year.1
There are many reasons why charitable giving ramps up as the year draws to a close. Some individuals may feel urgency to follow through on early-year resolutions to give more. Others may be swayed by the spirit of the holiday season. And, of course, many Americans are also looking for ways to maximize their end-of-year tax deductions.
Regardless of your motivation for end-of-year giving, it’s important to take a strategic approach to charitable donations. You likely want to take advantage of any tax-deduction opportunities. More important, you probably want to feel confident that your donation will be put to good use and will actually go toward your cause of choice.
By doing a little research and planning, you can achieve both of these goals. Below are a few tips to guide your charitable strategy this holiday season. If you haven’t made your donation yet, take a bit of time to review your plan.
Make sure your donation is truly deductible.
The IRS allows you to deduct your contributions to most charitable and nonprofit organizations. One of the main reasons for allowing this deduction is to drive charitable giving to worthy causes.
However, not every donation is eligible for deduction. In order to receive tax-deductible donations, nonprofit organizations must be included in an IRS eligibility database. Depending on the state, they also may need to be registered with a state agency or office. Additionally, some nonprofits that are based overseas may not be eligible because they are considered to be foreign organizations.
Before you make your donation, do some research on the organization. If it’s a legitimate, well-run group, it will likely meet all eligibility rules. However, it never hurts to double-check, especially if the group isn’t well-known.
Keep track of volunteering expenses.
You generally are not allowed to take deductions for time spent volunteering or for a donation of your own labor. However, you may be able to deduct any expenses you’ve incurred during your volunteering experience.
For example, perhaps you bought food for volunteer staff or supplies for the organization’s office. These could potentially be deducted. Also, mileage may be deductible as well if your driving was part of a volunteer experience or was required for charity-related work. Record expenses you’ve incurred throughout the year as a volunteer or charity worker. Also, be sure to consult with a tax professional before you include these costs as deductions.
Research the nonprofit’s effectiveness.
While it’s always great to get a deduction, your main motivation for giving probably is to help your chosen cause. If so, you likely want to have confidence that your donation will actually benefit those who need help rather than be used to fund overhead or needless expenses.
There are a number of websites that grade charitable effectiveness and provide statistics on what percentage of each donation is used for its intended purpose. Research your charity. If the organization doesn’t have a great track record, consider looking for an alternate organization that works in the same area.
Need help developing your charitable giving strategy? Let’s talk about it. Tommy Mai Financial welcomes the chance to help you analyze your needs and goals, and then develop a plan. Let’s connect today.
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