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Charitable Giving: Important Tips for Tax Season

(ARA) - 'Tis the season to be giving. The holidays are a great time to give back to those who need it most and what better way to give than to donate to your favorite charity? 

Of course giving back to a good cause is great for the soul, but it can also be good for the pocketbook, in the form of a tax deduction. And as 2011 comes to a close, there's still time to make your charitable gift count. Those who donate on or before Dec. 31 are still able to claim their donation when it comes time for tax season. 

"Many charitable givers are aware of tax deductions," says Todd Baylis, president of Qgiv, an online fundraising platform that helps organizations connect with the next generation of donors. "But many of those who give are not always aware of the qualifications come tax season." 

Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your good deed doesn't go unnoticed during tax season. 

Make sure your donations qualify 
First, make sure your donation qualifies. In order to receive tax savings your contribution must go to an IRS-certified, 501(c)(3) qualified organization. You can find an updated list at many public libraries as well as the IRS website. 

Another important tip, itemize, itemize, itemize. Make sure you itemize your deductions on your tax form under Schedule A, otherwise you'll be out of luck. 

Keep records 
Now is the time to make sure you receive a receipt or acknowledgement from the organization you give to. Donations of $250 or more will not be allowed as a tax deduction unless you have the right documentation. To claim a deduction for cash, check or other monetary gift, you must have written acknowledgement from the charity that includes the name of the organization and the date and amount of the contribution. For donations less than $250, if you do not have a receipt, a cancelled check or bank record will work. 

You can also receive a deduction for donations such as property, clothing, household furnishings or office equipment, but there are specific rules. The process is the same when claiming your deduction. You must have a receipt for the goods from the charity, and if the item donated is worth more than $500, you will need to file IRS Form 8283. 

"Many nonprofit organizations now have the ability to accept online donations," says Baylis. "When a nonprofit organization partners with Qgiv, those donating to that organization will receive customized receipts by email in addition to the having the ability to print a receipt for their tax records." 

With the increase use of smartphones, mobile giving has become more and more popular. If you donated using your phone, you can use your phone bill as a receipt as long as it lists the date, amount donated and the name of the charity. 

When in doubt, ask 
When preparing for tax season there are many resources to help you make sure you are getting your correct deduction for charitable giving. If you have a question, ask a tax adviser or go visit the IRS website for specifics on charitable giving.

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