A. Charitable gifts allow you to benefit organizations you care about while enjoying a tax deduction (if you itemize). Cash is the easiest gift, but sometimes it’s more advantageous to donate other assets — and sometimes it’s not. Take vehicle donations: If you donate your vehicle to charity, the value of your deduction can vary greatly depending on what the charity does with it.
You can deduct the vehicle’s fair market value (FMV) if the charity:
- Uses the vehicle for a significant charitable purpose (such as delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly),
- Sells the vehicle for substantially less than FMV in furtherance of a charitable purpose (such as a bargain sale to a low-income person needing transportation), or
- Makes material improvements to the vehicle. (This, according to the IRS, is an improvement that “significantly increases” the vehicle’s value. The IRS doesn’t provide specifics, other than saying that “cleaning, minor repairs and routine maintenance” don’t qualify.)
But in most other circumstances, if the vehicle you’re donating is valued at more than $500 and the charity sells it, your deduction is limited to the amount of the sales proceeds.
To qualify for a donation deduction, you also must obtain from the charity a written acknowledgment (with a copy to the IRS) that:
- Certifies whether the charity sold the vehicle or retained it for use for a charitable purpose,
- Includes your name and tax identification number, as well as the vehicle identification number, and
- Reports, if applicable, details concerning the sale of the vehicle within 30 days of the sale.
As with any donation of more than $75, the charity also must disclose whether it provided you any goods or services in relation to the vehicle donation, making a good-faith estimate of the value of any goods and services provided. You must then reduce your deduction by that value.