1997 Tax Help Archives  


This is archived information that pertains only to the 1997 Tax Year. If you
are looking for information for the current tax year, go to the Tax Prep Help Area.

Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040.

To be deductible, charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations. Qualified organizations include but are not limited to federal, state, and local governments and organizations organized and operated only for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. Organizations can tell you if they are qualified and if donations to them are deductible.

If your contribution entitles you to merchandise, goods, or services, including admission to a banquet, theatrical performance, or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

For a contribution of $250 or more, you can claim a deduction only if you obtain a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization. You generally can deduct your cash contributions as well as the fair market value of any property you donate to qualified organizations. The fair market value of most household or personal items is generally much less than the price paid when new. You should claim only what the item would sell for at a garage sale, a flea market, or a second hand or thrift store. You must fill out Section A of Form 8283 if your total deduction for all noncash contributions is more than $500. If you make a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000, generally an appraisal must be done. In that case, you must also fill out Section B of Form 8283. Attach Form 8283 to your return. For more information on this requirement, see Publication 526.

Generally, if property you contribute increased in value while you owned it, you may not be able to deduct its full value. You must make an additional computation which includes the property's cost to determine the deductible amount of your contribution.

Contributions you can not deduct at all include contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates, the value of your time or services and the cost of raffles, bingo, or other games of chance. You can not deduct contributions that you give to qualified organizations if, as a result, you receive or expect to receive a financial, economic benefit equal to the contribution.

Although you cannot deduct the value of your time or services, you can deduct the expenses you incur while donating your services to a qualified organization. If the expenses are for travel, which may include transportation and meals and lodging while away from home, they may be deducted only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. Actual costs of gas and oil can be deducted, or you can choose to take 12 cents per mile for using your own car. Beginning in 1998, the rate will be 14 cents per mile.

If your total contributions for the year are 20% or less of your Adjusted Gross Income, your deduction is not limited. Contributions in excess of 20% may be limited depending upon the type of property or the type of organization the donation is contributed to.

For more information, refer to Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. To order these publications, call 1-800-829-3676.

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