Moving into the land of part time work in retirement from years of working full time has meant cutting down on some of the charitable giving I was able to afford more easily before.

Because I still want to give back and help promote causes I feel strongly about I have entered the ranks of volunteers for certain organizations.

As I’m beginning to prepare my tax deductions for the last year – I just discovered that I can use a 14 cents a mile deduction for driving my own car to a meeting or volunteer stint at a qualified charitable organization.

And if I am lucky enough to be going out of town as an official delegate to a meeting of a charitable group – my transportation and travel expenses can be deducted as well.

Donating used items to a charity?

1. Determine the value of each item

If you routinely donate items to an organization during the course of the year – here are a few things to keep in mind:  You should do your homework and occasionally go to a thrift store to figure out what a good used sweater sells for.

Itemize all of your items before taking them to the collection point and ask for a donation form where you can easily place the number of items and what you think they are worth.
tax tips for donating to charity

If it’s a larger item, like an old but working car — protect yourself from a possible audit, by getting a qualified appraisal for the car from a used car dealer before handing over the keys – particularly if it’s worth over five hundred dollars.

Then and more importantly – follow the charity auction and get a receipt from the charity stating how much the auto actually was auctioned for. You’ll need these to back up your donation.

2. Always – always ask for a receipt

Starting in 2007 the tax laws changed and the IRS took the guesswork out of itemized charitable donations. Now, you must always have a receipt for ANY donations you make. Even the five bucks you drop into the red buckets at Christmas time. Ask the bell ringer for the mailing address of his charity and mail them a check. They will appreciate the donation just as much and you’ll have the cancelled check to prove the donation.

3. Attending a charity dinner or dance?

Finally, if you are like many of us we attend one or two charity fund raising events a year. Be sure you look at your ticket stub carefully. If the actual donation amount, as opposed to the ticket price, is not clearly stated on the stub – take the time to call the charity and ask.

The IRS only allows us to use the amount that actually goes to the charity after the event is over and paid for. Understand that those hors d’oeuvres and the advertising of the event may not have been covered by a corporate sponsor this year. Loosely translated – that means that only a percentage of the cost of the ticket goes back to the charity. Find out what that percentage is!

This guest post was written by Mary Ann Rosenthal, who is a grandmother to four beautiful children under the age of five. She is dedicated to helping her friends and family save money and works with her son Aaron at She is also an artist, writer and aspiring photographer living in Saint Augustine, Florida.

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest