Tax Deductible Altruism
by Christine Biser
Did you donate pet supplies to Frederick County Animal Control & Pet Adoption Center (FCAC) in 2015? Did you bolster FCAC's medical fund by making a monetary donation? Did you foster a critter—or a whole litter of critters?for the shelter, incurring costs for pet food and travel?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your efforts to help homeless animals may be tax deductible. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes certain donations to local government agencies, like FCAC, as a charitable contribution. Such a donation lowers the amount of income on which you must pay personal income tax.
Of course, you will need to use IRS Form 1040, not the 1040-EZ, to claim your kindness. And you'll need to follow a few rules, summarized here:
- If you donated used household items, such as towels or blankets, the items must be in "good or better" condition if you want to claim them on your tax return.
- Ask FCAC for a receipt if your donation (the value of your monetary donation or the "fair market value" of donated goods) was more than $75. For a cash donation, the receipt should be on FCAC letterhead; for check or credit card donations, your receipt must have been processed by a bank (a cancelled check, bank statement, or credit card statement).
- For a donated service, such as volunteering at the shelter or fostering animals for the shelter, you may be able to claim your mileage for getting to and from the shelter. Just be sure to use the correct mileage rate?14¢/mile, instead of the 57.5¢/mile you would use for business expenses.
- Your charitable deduction usually cannot be more than 50% of your adjusted gross income; in certain circumstances, you may not deduct more than 20% or 30% of your adjusted gross income.
For more information, check out IRS Tax Tip 2011-57: Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions. This overview has links to other relevant publications, in which you can find more comprehensive instructions.
Of course, we don't donate or volunteer our time for the tax deduction; we do it to help homeless animals. But if you can reduce your tax bill a bit, why not? Think of it as a thank you for your kindness, direct from the federal government.
Christine Biser helps homeless animals by fostering kittens for FCAC and by volunteering at a high-volume spay/neuter clinic. She recently earned her B.S. in finance.