Making donations for tax deductions is easy, but there are a few things you might want to know before you donate.
Do you itemize deductions or use the standard deduction?
If you’re donating specifically because you want a tax deduction, you can only write off your donations if you use itemized deductions.
The IRS gives you two options:
- Claim a standard deduction that covers things like donations without you having to keep track of your deductions.
- Itemize your deductions which means tracking all of your deductions during the year and saving receipts.
Itemizing your deductions can give you a bigger deduction than the standard deduction depending on what deductions you have. If you don’t donate a lot, you can combine your donations with other itemized deductions like state and local taxes.
If you don’t itemize, it may seem unfair that you already get the standard deduction without donating and don’t get anything extra for donating. That’s just how taxes work.
Here are the current standard deduction amounts. Remember, if your total itemized deductions including donations are less than these amounts, using the standard deduction instead of itemizing gives you a bigger deduction.
|Single and Married Filing Separately||$12,950||$13,850|
|Married Filing Jointly and Qualifying Widower*||$25,900||$27,700|
|Head of Household||$19,400||$20,800|
|Single Age 65+||+ $1,750||+ $1,850|
|Married Filing Separately One Spouse 65+||+ $1,400||+ $1,500|
|Married Filing Separately Both Spouses 65+||+ $2,800||+ $3,000|
|Married Filing Jointly and Qualifying Widower Age 65+||+ $1,400||+ $1,500|
|Married Filing Jointly Both Spouses 65+||+ $2,800||+ $3,000|
|Head of Household Age 65+||+ $1,750||+ $1,850|
|Dependent with Unearned Income Only||$1,150||$1,250|
|Dependent with Earned and Unearned Income Totalling Less Than the Usual Standard Deduction Amount||Earned income plus $400||Earned income plus $400|
What’s the deadline for donating for a tax write-off?
The deadline for donating for a tax write-off is generally December 31st.
Unlike contributing to your IRA and certain other tax moves, you don’t get until the time you file your tax return. Donations for tax deductions generally need to be made in the same calendar year you’re claiming them.
Check with your charity of choice to find out if they have any special deadlines. While many take donations until the last possible second, others shut down donations early to give them time to process things.
If you mail a donation, it generally counts for the current year if it’s postmarked in the current year. Try not to wait until December 31st.
If you drop it in the mail late on the 31st, it may not get processed that day. Also, many post offices no longer postmark their own mail even if you dropped it off before the last pickup time. If they send it to a larger post office or sorting facility, it may not get postmarked until the next day.
Donate online if you need to wait until the last minute to confirm your income for the year.
How much do you need to donate?
There’s no minimum donation amount to get a tax deduction.
If you’re already itemizing your deductions, you can deduct as little as $1. If you’re not already itemizing, your donations plus other itemized deductions will need to be more than the standard deduction to get a donation.
How much can you donate for a deduction?
You can usually deduct donations equal to up to 60% of your adjusted gross income. If you donate more than that, you may be able to deduct the remaining amount in a future year.
See Charitable Contribution Rules for more information on the donation limits.
Who can you donate to?
You can donate to any qualified non-profit organization of your choice. This will generally include churches, charities, and some youth sports leagues.
Qualified non-profit organization means an organization approved by the IRS. Donations to private campaigns, such as GoFundMe, are generally not deductible even if they’re for a good cause.
What proof do you need to claim a donation tax deduction?
You generally need to save a receipt for all donations you make. A receipt can be either printed or electronic.
Some smaller donations may not need a receipt, but you should still get a receipt. First, even if you don’t need a receipt, you’ll still need to be able to prove your donation. Second, if you donate more later, your donations may now be large enough that you’re required to have a receipt.
If you’re donating things instead of money, you may need to get a qualified appraisal to prove the value of your items.