Although many people give generously to charity throughout the year, the holiday season is a popular time for people to reach into their pockets and donate to a worthy cause.
If you already have made or you are planning to make a charitable contribution this year, you may be entitled to a tax deduction on your 2011 federal income tax return when you file it next year.
Deductions for charitable contributions are subject to rules and limitation just like most tax deductions and credits.
To begin, you must itemize your deductions on IRS Schedule A, Form 1040 to claim the contributions. Taxpayers who choose the standard deduction are not entitled to claim a deduction for charitable giving.
To be deductible on your 2011 federal tax return you must make your contribution before year end and you must have a bank record or a written communication from the qualifying charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution.
Deductible contributions must be made to qualified organization. You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates.
Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
The rules for documentation on non-cash contributions differ depending on several factors such as the type or property and its value. If you are donating property you should review these rules before claiming a deduction.
More information about deducting gifts to charity can be found in IRS Publication 526 (2010), Charitable Contributions available on the official IRS Website, www.irs.gov.
About this column: Dianne M. Besunder is IRS Spokeswoman for New York