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Donating to Charities
The holiday season tends to bring out the best in people and that can certainly benefit charities in need. But before you open your wallet, consider the guidance below from our own James Molet. Following these tips could keep you in the holiday spirit all year around.
Do Give – Even a small amount will be appreciated by the charities you choose to contribute to this holiday season.
Do Conduct Research – Ensure that the charities you are considering are good stewards of the money you are contributing, are accountable, and are transparent. As an example, check the ratio of contributions a charity spends on funding programs (higher is generally better) and spends on administrative costs (lower is generally better). Useful sites for conducting research include the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.
Do Donate on Online – If making a monetary contribution, the best way to avoid being scammed is to donate to reputable organizations you have researched, through their website. Your transactions will be secure – look for “https” and a lock icon in the address bar when providing credit/debit card information – and you will receive a receipt of the transaction. Generally you can print the receipt immediately after the transaction is complete and/or the receipt will be sent to your email address.
Do Hang on to your Receipt – Donating to your favorite charity has the added benefit of allowing you to reduce your tax liability. Ensure that you keep all of your receipts and have them ready when you prepare your tax returns or see your tax preparer. The amount you are able to deduct will depend on your adjusted gross income (AGI) and the type of donation made.
Don’t Make Cash Contributions – If someone solicits a contribution at your home, ask them for the website address of the charity. Any reputable charity will allow you to make contributions online. Going directly to the source for your contributions is the easiest, most secure approach.
Don’t Make a contribution to an Organization that is not a Registered Charity – Tax deductions can only be claimed for donations to registered charities. You can check the registration status on sites such as the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator. Once you have identified a charity, check its IRS/Tax status. A sample indicator might read, “This organization is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes.”
If donating goods to a local organization (e.g. Goodwill), Don’t leave items unattended outside a collection center; leave items that have been recalled, banned, or do not meet current safety standards; or leave items that are soiled or broken.
Mr. James C. Molet holds a MBA from Wayland Baptist University. He’s also a blogger on financial topics at retirement savvy.net and author of RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit. Mr. Molet retired from the U.S. Army after 21 years in 2005. He tweets @ jcmolet.