Charitable Contributions

With the holidays around the corner, many people will be making donations to benefit charitable organizations. However, come tax time, the person who made the donation might also benefit. That’s because taxpayers who donate to a charity may be able to claim a deduction for the donation on their federal tax return.

Qualified Charities. A taxpayer must donate to a qualified charity to deduct their contributions. Gifts to individuals, political organizations, or candidates are not deductible.

Itemize Deductions. To deduct charitable contributions, taxpayers must file Form 1040 and itemize their deductions. To do this, taxpayers complete Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. They file this form with their tax return.

Getting Something in Return. Taxpayers may receive something in return for their donation. This includes things such as merchandise, meals, and event tickets. Taxpayers can only deduct the amount of the donation that’s more than the fair market value of the item they received. To figure their deduction, a taxpayer would subtract the value of the item received from the amount of their donation.

Type of Donation. For donations of property instead of cash, a taxpayer can only deduct the fair market value of the donated item. Fair market value is generally the price they would get if they sold the item on the open market. If they donate used clothing and household items, those items generally must be in good condition. Special rules apply to certain types of property donations, such as cars and boats.

Donations of $250 or More. If a taxpayer donates $250 or more in cash or goods, they must have a written receipt from the charity. The statement must show the amount of the donation, a description of any property given, whether the taxpayer received any goods or services in exchange for their gift, and, if so, must provide a description and good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services.

Also, as the end of the year approaches, you may consider a tax withholding checkup. When you take a close look to make sure the right amount of tax is withheld now, you can avoid an unexpected tax bill next year.

Examples of who would benefit from a withholding check-up:

  • You received large tax refunds in past years When a taxpayer has too much tax withheld from their paycheck, they pay too much tax during the year. They can change their withholding to have money upfront rather than waiting for a bigger refund.

 

  • You owed taxes in years past Taxpayers with too little tax withheld might owe money. Under-withholding can lead to both a tax bill and an additional penalty.

 

  • People with a second job Taxpayers who work more than one job should check the total amount of taxes they have withheld and make adjustments as necessary. This will ensure their withholding covers the total amount of the taxes they owe, based on their combined income from all their jobs.

 

  • People who make estimated tax payments Some taxpayers make quarterly estimated tax payments throughout the year. This includes self-employed individuals, partners, and S corporation shareholders.  If these taxpayers also work for an employer, they can often skip making these quarterly payments by instead having more tax taken out of their pay.

 

  • People with a new job Taxpayers who start a new job should check their withholding to make sure they are having enough taxes withheld. Their total withholding should cover the income tax owed from their new and old jobs combined.

To make sure your employer withholds the right amount of tax, you can adjust form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. In many cases, this is all they need to do. The employer uses the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay. This takes time, so taxpayers should make adjustments as soon as possible so the changes can take affect during the final pay periods of 2017.