Monday, May 14, 2018

How Do Tax Deductions Work When Donating a Car?

It's easy to donate a car to charity if all you want to do is get rid of it.

Simply call a charity that accepts old vehicles, and it will tow your heap away. But if you want to maximize your tax benefits, it's more complicated.

Here's a walk through some of the considerations, with the usual proviso that you should discuss these issues with your tax preparer before you act.

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You must itemize your return

If you want to claim a car donation to reduce your federal income taxes, you must itemize deductions. You could itemize even if the donated auto is your only deduction, but that's usually not the best choice.

Here's the math: Suppose you're in the 28% tax bracket and the allowable deduction for the vehicle's donation is $1,000. That will save you $280 in taxes. If you're in the 15% tax bracket and you get that same $1,000 deduction, it will reduce your taxes by $150.

If the car donation is your only deduction, it's likely that taking a standard deduction would save you thousands more dollars in taxes. The only way that donating a car nets you any tax benefit is if you have many deductions and if their total, including the car, exceeds the standard deduction.

Step 1: Find out how much the charity sold the car for
Use the price the charity obtains for your car in a sale as the amount of your deduction. For example, if the charity sells the car at auction for $3,000, your deduction is limited to $3,000, even if the fair market value is $4,500. However, if the charity sells the car at a significant discount to a needy individual or keeps the car for its own internal use, then you can claim a deduction for its fair market value.

Step 2: Determine the car's fair market value
The IRS suggests that you use a reputable used-car price guide to calculate your deduction when using fair market value. For example, go to your local library and obtain a recent copy of the Kelley Blue Book. Search the private party prices for your vehicle based on its make, model and overall condition. This type of search can be done on the Internet as well.

Step 3: Claiming the deduction
Report the amount of your deduction on line 17 of Schedule A. Since you can only claim a deduction for your car donation if you itemize, the total of all your eligible expenses on Schedule A must exceed the standard deduction amount for your filing status.

If you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, we’ll help you determine which filing status will get you the biggest tax savings.

Step 4: Additional forms you'll need
Complete Form 8283 if your car donation deduction is more than $500. If your deduction is between $501 and $5,000, you must complete Section A. If your deduction is greater than $5,000, you must complete Section B. If you complete Section B, you must also obtain a written appraisal as documentation.

Again, if you use TurboTax, we’ll ask simple questions and fill in all the right forms for you.

Tips

If the charity sells your car sells for $500 or less, you can deduct $500 or your car’s fair market value, whichever is less. For example, if your car is valued at $650 but sells for $350, you can deduct $500.
Most charities will report the sales price of your car to you on Form 1098-C.
Warnings

You must have documentation of your donation. At a minimum, the documentation you receive from the charity must include your name, the vehicle identification number, the date of your donation and a statement describing the goods and services you received, if any.