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Top Eight Tax Tips about Deducting Charitable Contributions

When you give a gift to charity that helps the lives of others in need. It may also help you at tax time. You may be able to claim the gift as a deduction that may lower your tax. Here are eight tax tips you should know about deducting your gifts to charity:
 
1. Qualified Charities.  You must donate to a qualified charity if you want to deduct the gift. You can’t deduct gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool.
 
2. Itemized Deduction.  To deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return.
 
3. Benefit in Return.  If you get something in return for your donation, your deduction is limited. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that is more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.
 
4. Donated Property.  If you gave property instead of cash, the deduction is usually that item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market.
 
5. Clothing and Household Items.  Used clothing and household items must be in at least good condition to be deductible in most cases. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations. See Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for more on these rules.
 
6. Form 8283.  You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, if your deduction for all noncash gifts is more than $500 for the year.
 
7. Records to Keep.  You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you made during the year. The kind of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation. For example, you must have a written record of any cash you donate, regardless of the amount, in order to claim a deduction. For more about what records to keep refer to Publication 526.
 
8. Donations of $250 or More.  To claim a deduction for donated cash or goods of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Five Tips You Should Know about Employee Business Expenses

If you paid for work-related expenses out of your own pocket, you may be able to deduct those costs. In most cases, you claim allowable expenses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Here are five tax tips that you should know about this deduction.

  1. Ordinary and Necessary. You can only deduct unreimbursed expenses that are ordinary and necessary to your work as an employee. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate and helpful to your business.
  2. Expense Examples. Some costs that you may be able to deduct include:    
  • Required work clothes or uniforms that are not appropriate for everyday use.
  • Supplies and tools you use on the job.
  • Business use of your car.
  • Business meals and entertainment. 
  • Business travel away from home. 
  • Business use of your home.
  • Work-related education.

This list is not all-inclusive. Special rules apply if your employer reimbursed you for your expenses. To learn more, check out Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. You should also refer to Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

  1. Forms to Use. In most cases you report your expenses on Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ. After you figure your allowable expenses, you then list the total on Schedule A as a miscellaneous deduction. You can deduct the amount that is more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.
  2. Educator Expenses. If you are a K through 12 teacher or educator, you may be able to deduct up to $250 of certain expenses you paid for in 2014. These may include books, supplies, equipment, and other materials used in the classroom. You claim this deduction as an adjustment on your tax return, rather than as an itemized deduction. This deduction had expired at the end of 2013. A recent tax law extended it for one year, through Dec. 31, 2014. For more on this topic see Publication 529.
  3. Keep Records. You must keep records to prove the expenses you deduct. For what records to keep, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax.