Every time a disaster hits, such as the most recent one in Japan, many of us can't help but reach into our pockets to give. But what does it mean come tax time? Read these tips from Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block:
To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.
Note the Date of the Donation
To be able to deduct contributions on your 2011 return, you must have completed the donation by December 31, 2011. A bank record or receipt is needed for all cash donations of less than $250; cash donations of $250 or more require written confirmation from the charitable organization in addition to the receipt or bank record. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good condition to be deductible.
To qualify for a tax deduction, you must be giving to a qualified organization. You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates.
If you receive a benefit in return such as tickets to a game or merchandise, then you can deduct only the amount of the donation that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.