Did you know that if you itemize your tax deductions, you can claim donations to charities?
To do so, you need to make a specific list of what you are donating and get a receipt when you donate the items. When we have done it, we have simply listed “5 boys’ shirts; 6 men’s slacks,” etc. The recipient does not assign a value to what you have donated: you must do that. There are guides for how much you can claim for donated items at the Goodwill site and the Salvation Army site. I imagine you can use the same guidelines if you donate to a local rescue shelter or children’s home.
For example, you can claim $2-12 for a shirt, $2-10 for pants, $3-20 for a dress, depending on the condition. That’s more than you could make at a yard sale on those items. Household items seem to have about the same value that you might get at a yard sale, maybe a little more (lamp: $4-12; books: $.75-1.50; chair: $5-15).
There is a much more detailed document titled “Determining the Value of Donated Property” on the IRS web site at which covers multitudes of types of donated items. It also warns that there can be a 20-40% penalty if it is discovered that you overstated the value of a donated item. The IRS document on Charitable Contributions details what types of organizations and donations qualify for deductions.
The advantage to a yard sale is that you can get the cash immediately for your items. But if you don’t need the money immediately, you might make out better donating the items and claiming the deductions. Both efforts take time: the yard sale takes time to price things, advertise, and spend a morning actually selling and then packing up what’s left over. Donating to charitable organizations takes time to make lists and assign values and haul your stuff to the donation site (although some charities will pick up items) and then keep up with the paperwork until tax time. It just depends on which method you find less frustrating and confusing.
Of course, if you have things you need to get rid of and you don’t itemize your deductions and don’t want to have a yard sale, you can just take them to a donation site and drop them off without dealing with itemizing or receipts. Or you can donate them to a charity that is holding a yard sale. Some things might do well on eBay, but to list things item by item would be a bit tedious if you have a lot, and I don’t know that common everyday household items would do well. Some items, particularly children’s clothes and women’s clothes, might do well at a consignment store. Mrs. Wilt had a great post about that this week.
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