The holidays are a good time to visit family and friends, catch up on TV shows—and give back. Donating money or items to charity can help someone in need get food, clothes, medical treatment, and more. But it’s important to research charities to avoid scams and fraud. And you’ll need to keep records of your donations for your taxes. Use these tips from USAGov to help make your donations count and celebrate the holiday spirit of giving:
- Decide what to donate - You can donate money or property to a charity. Make financial donations by check or credit card—not cash—for security and tax purposes. Some charities accept clothes, household items, vehicles, or other types of property.
- Do your research - Before making a donation, make sure the charity is real. Find out if it has a license from the attorney general in your state and if it has had any complaints. You can also check if a charity is trustworthy by contacting the Better Business Bureau. How do you know if you can claim a charitable contribution deduction on your taxes? Use the IRS’ Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if a charity is on the list of qualified organizations. (Under “select database,” choose “Pub 78 Data.”)
- Keep records - It’s important to keep records to prove the amount you donated to a charity. This includes a receipt, credit card statement, or email confirmation showing your donation. You can also use a phone bill if you gave a donation by text message. Keep in mind, the amount you can deduct on your taxes may not be equal to the amount you originally paid for the items you’re donating. For donated property (non-cash items), you can deduct the fair market value on your taxes. This is the price the property would sell for used on the open market. That can be much lower than the price paid when new. Learn what types of records to keep and other rules to claim a charitable contribution deduction on your federal taxes.
- Watch out for charity scams - Researching a charity will help you avoid scams, but don’t let your guard down. Scammers set up fake organizations to take advantage of people’s generosity. This is especially common after disasters and tragedies. Learn how to protect yourself from and report charity scams to help keep others safe.
Find answers to a wide range of questions on donating to charity for individuals and small businesses at USA.gov.