Taxes and Donating a Car

By: Jessica Deets

Wikipedia defines car donation or donate-your-car as thus - car donation refers to the practice of giving away no-longer-wanted automobiles to charity organizations.

In the United States, charitable donations provide a tax benefit; as such, this type of giving has become very popular. For values less than $5000, the value of the tax deduction comes from the donor's own estimate of the car's value, even if the charity receives much less money from actually selling the car (usually at auction).

Car donation category has been infested with masters of con craft over the time. Scams occur in this business category without even attracting any headlines. Here are some facts - car donation programs are supposed to be run by not-for-profit organizations. Reality - these are mostly run by for-profit firms. Charity organizations are supposed to benefit most from used car donations. Reality - majority of the sales proceeds are pocketed by used car dealers or fundraisers, and not the charity organization.

Charity organizations don't come under any audit for a minimum period of 18 months. This helps scamsters spread their wings easily. Even the end of 18 months duration is not a guarantee of an audit.

New laws

In order to curb this widely followed malpractice, IRS has enacted new set of laws. Following are some salient features of these laws -

1. Organization qualification - ensure that the charity organization is qualified to receive the car donation. You will not be eligible for tax deductions if the car is donated to a non-qualified organization. You may check the list of such organizations on 'Publication 78' available online or with public libraries.

2. Fair market value deductions - you are eligible for the tax benefits on fair market value of the vehicle, and not the value arrived with the help of the guide. Fair market value can be arrived at with the help of many used-car guides available in the market. Publications 526 and 561 respectively "Charitable Deductions" and "Determining the Value of Donated Property" can be of great help.

3. Itemize your deductions - In order to take full advantage of tax deductions, you need to itemize your deductions on your tax returns. This will depend on the difference between your itemized and standard deductions.

4. Deduction documentation - you must meticulously maintain the documentation required for the purpose. There are many documents including forms, required to avail the benefits. You may refer to Publication 526 for details about the forms and receipts needed to avail the deductions.

New laws on car donation clearly specify the following - when a taxpayer donates a vehicle for which the claimed value is $500 or more, the precise deduction that can be claimed will depend on how the charity plans to use the vehicle. If the auto is sold by the nonprofit organization, then the taxpayer will be able to deduct only the amount of gross proceeds the organization got from the sale. And the donor will have to depend on the charity to let him know the donation amount by the individual tax-filing deadline. In other words, the freedom has been restricted. It is now the amount that the vehicle realizes from the sale (by the charity organization), that will be treated to be deductible, and NOT the one claimed by the car donor.

It is far better to be in touch with your finance portfolio advisor before deciding on car donation.

Copyright 2006

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Jessica Deets researches the internet and gets information to help people. You can find out more information about donating a vehicle at

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