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By Pastor Brian Kluth, Bestselling Author of 30 & 40 Day Generosity Devotionals and Founder of www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org 

Tis the season for tax-deductible giving. Over 150 million Americans are expected to make year-end donations of over $75 billion dollars to help hurting charities and churches and those they serve.  If you don't want the IRS Grinch (or your tax preparer or accountant) to bite you in April over your December year-end donations, here's what you need to know:

  1. CASH GIFTS are often NOT tax-deductible.  Cash gifts are ONLY deductible if they have been put in an envelope with your name on it so the gift can be properly receipted by the charity or church.
  2. CHECKS DATED DECEMBER 31st are NOT tax-deductible if given on January 1st or later. If Sunday falls on January 1st or later, checks dated 12/31/12 but put in an offering plate or mailed in AFTER DEC 31st are not legally tax-deductible.  But any donations made to a church or charity made online on their website or at www.networkforgood.org on December 31st are tax-deductible.
  3. VOLUNTEER HOURS are NOT tax-deductible.  No matter how much time or services a person donates time to their favorite charities, their time is NOT tax-deductible as a donation. But if you document miles driven in service of charitable organizations, you can deduct 14 cents per mile (amount can change yearly, check with the IRS.gov website for charitable mileage rates).
  4. RAFFLE TICKETS, DINNERS, CARNIVAL, AND BINGO EXPENSES are NOT tax-deductible.  Just because someone helps a tax-exempt organization does not mean all financial transactions are tax-deductible.
  5. PRODUCTS purchased from charities are NOT 100% tax-deductible.  Many charities sell books, magazines, CD's, food, seeds, and many other things. One cannot deduct the full amount paid to a charity for products. If the charity charges $10 for a box of candy that normally sells for $8, only $2 can be claimed as a charitable contribution. Some charities will accept donations for products, but will issue you a receipt you can use that displays the value of the product and how much can be claimed as a donation.
  6. ANY MONEY given to individuals is NOT tax-deductible.  While it is a good thing to help a family in need or religious workers, no cash or checks made out to individuals are tax-deductible. Only gifts that are given directly to an IRS registered organizations and their official programs are tax-deductible. For example, you can give money to a church's benevolence program to help people in need, but you cannot mandate who they give it to and expect a tax-deductible receipt from the church.
  7. GIFTS-IN-KIND are NOT tax-deductible without a form or letter from the charity that they received the items.  Also be aware that charities are NOT allowed to issue a donation receipt for any stated "value" of gifts-in-kind. For example, if you could donate furniture to a homeless shelter, you cannot ask them for a receipt saying the furniture is worth $500. They can only give you a form or letter saying they received the item(s). It is the donor's responsibility to document how they arrived at the value of the donation for the gifts-in-kind they gave. When donating item to Goodwill and Salvation Army, make sure you get one of their donation acknowledgement forms that you can calculate the value of what you donated. To determine the value of your donated goods, go to:http://www.bankrate.com/finance/money-guides/tax-guide-for-donated-goods.aspx

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS IMPORTANT TOPIC:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: PASTOR BRIAN KLUTH is a contributing blogger to ChurchCentral.com.  He is the bestselling author of 30 & 40 Day www.GenerousLife.org Bible devotionals used by over 3000 churches to inspire generosity and increase giving.  He is the founder of the www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org website and eNewsletter of church stewardship resources, tools, and training for pastors and church leaders.  Brian's national STATE OF THE PLATE RESEARCH on church giving and generosity work has been featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN, USA Today, Washington Times, and thousands for radio stations and newspapers.

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Brian Kluth
Pastor Brian Kluth lives in Denver, CO and has been a popular guest speaker (www.BrianKluth.org and www.GenerosityPledge.org) for hundreds of churches, conferences, colleges, seminary, and leadership events. He is a pastor, bestselling author, researcher, and radio speaker.
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