Great news, both for you and for the Haiti relief effort: Donations to help the impoverished, earthquake-stricken country can count for your 2009 tax return.
(If you haven’t contributed already, read our article for ideas to help Haiti.)
Background on the Haiti Tax Provision
Enacted toward the end of January, the US government passed a special provision to give you tax relief if you helped this cause. In order to count on your 2009 tax return—instead of waiting to itemize the deductions next year—you need to have contributed between January 11, 2010 and March 1, 2010. Of course, you can claim the deduction after March 1st as long as you made your contribution before then. This only counts for cash contributions; it includes text message, credit, and debit card contributions, but it wouldn’t cover, say, the purchase of the Hope For Haiti Now CD.
Getting the Tax Break ASAP
The purpose of this provision is to provide taxpayers with an almost-immediate tax benefit to thank them for opening their hearts and pocketbooks for those impacted by the earthquake. To receive the government’s thank-you ASAP, file your 2009 tax returns early online and choose the direct deposit option. According to the IRS, refunds can be directly deposited into your bank account in as soon as ten days.
Choose Which Year You Want the Deduction to Count for
Of course, you don’t have to take the deduction this year. If you’d rather wait and add it to your 2010 return, you can do so (if, say, you don’t have enough itemized deductions to exceed the standard deduction amount but think that you might next year). Just remember that you have to choose, meaning that you can’t count the contribution for both 2009 and 2010.
How to Get That Tax Benefit for Being Charitable
In order to receive your tax break, fill out your deductions on tax form Schedule A. Additionally, you need to have donated to a qualified charity. To verify that your charity of choice is IRS-approved, search the IRS site for charities. Note that some organizations like churches might not be listed at that link, even though they’re qualified.
One Thing to Remember
Make sure to keep a record of all of your deductible donations. If you donated to Haiti earthquake relief through the Red Cross text message campaign, you can use your phone as a record, as long as it shows the name of the organization you donated to, the date, and the amount. For other types of donations, make sure to keep receipts if you want to claim deductions.
Image credit: American Red Cross / Flickr