3 Steps to Turn Spring Cleaning into Charitable Giving

Like many of us, you probably think of springtime as the season to clear out and toss clutter. But that doesn’t mean your unwanted objects need to go in the trash.

Not everything you want to junk is necessarily junk. Items like clothes, electronics, and even cars that are still in good shape may be valuable to someone. And your charitable donations can add to your bottom line as tax deductions.

How do you donate your spring cast-offs to charity? Three basic steps can get your unwanted items working for you and your grateful community.

1. Decide whether your items are worthy of donation. Sometimes spring cleaning unearths artifacts that really should go straight to the dump. You’ll need to assess what’s good for giving and what’s good for scrapping.

Two well-known charity organizations, the Salvation Army and Goodwill, offer general guidelines on what makes goods worthy of donation. Some tips:

  • Wash or dry-clean clothing you intend to donate.
  • Only donate appliances, toys, and other items that work.
  • Include all parts and manuals that you still have.
  • Check with the charity regarding its terms for donating computers and vehicles.

2. Use a charity database. Organizations like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and local houses of worship are often the first stop for those giving to charity. But if you’d rather donate to groups that fund your personal interests, you can find them online.

Charity Navigator lists more than 5,000 charities in nine general categories including animals, environment, health, arts, culture, and humanities. You can either search for a charity by name or location and find contact information, so you can reach out and pinpoint the goods each charity needs.

3. Tally up the receipts. Once you’ve found the goods to give, you’ll need to assign values to them for tax purposes. The Salvation Army offers a donation value guide to help you appraise the worth of air conditioners, old slacks, TVs, and everything in between, giving you suggested low and high dollar ranges for each. Cars may be valued at the going resale rate.

When tax time comes, you’ll need to remember two things. First, you can only claim deductions on gifts to tax-exempt charitable and religious groups. Second, your return must list itemized deductions – taking the standard deduction won’t allow you to deduct charity donations.

Spring cleaning can be the perfect opportunity to turn your old household items into someone else’s great finds. Do that, and you just might find yourself with a lower tax bill next year.

What kinds of goods have you donated to charity? What has donating to charity done for your tax bill?

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