Assigning value to noncash donations to charity

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I love donating items we no longer need to charity, but I hate having to figure out the value for our taxes. Last year, we donated a lot of stuff to charity when we cleaned out the house. Twenty years ago, this was a daunting task but the internet has made it so much easier to assign value to those donated items.

Clothing and household items

The Salvation Army as a valuation guide on their website. It doesn’t have everything on it, but it does have commonly donated items and has been very helpful in assigning value to my clients donations.

When donating to thrift stores, make sure you make a list of what you donated (4 pairs men’s pants, 3 pairs women’s boots, etc). Don’t just write down 3 bags of clothing. If you get audited, you are going to have a tough time getting that deduction to stick. If you are really worried, take a digital picture of the stuff you are donating. Then you have real proof. Remember, when donating items to charity, you can only claim a deduction for the fair market value of the item. I use the thrift store value to be safe.

Furniture and larger items

If you are donating items that have a higher value (more than just a few dollars), you might want to check out ebay to see how much that item is going for. Print out a few listings and attach that to your donation receipt. This is especially important when donating items that will not be resold but will be used by a program.

High value items

If you are donating items worth serious dollars (art, collectibles, etc), you should get an appraisal. Attach the appraisal to the donation confirmation.

As you start your spring cleaning (ya, right), see what you have around the house that could be donated to a good cause. Since monetary contributions are down, you can really help a charity by donating your stuff. The charity gets much needed income and other frugal people, like you, can get some awesome deals!

What is the strangest thing you saw donated to a charity or that you have donated to a charity?