There exists in the average American household a rather common malady wherein no-longer-needed clothes, shoes, boots, coats, pants, shirts, toys, games, seasonal decor, sports equipment, electronics, appliances, computers, kitchen utensils, dishes and other useful items seem to reproduce in the dark of night filling cupboards, closets, attics and basements to the brim and beyond.
I call it Stuffitis—a condition for which there is an easy, and surprisingly profitable, treatment. Should your home have contracted this malady, there are two effective ways to treat it: a) Sell the stuff or b) Donate the stuff.
SELL THE STUFF. There are several ways to do this, none of which guarantee success. I hosted my final Garage Sale several years ago, to great disappointment. Having carefully cleaned, priced and displayed every item of which there were many—and being met with way too many offers of, “Would you take five bucks for everything?” at the end of a very long, hot and disappointing day—we hauled all that was left to a donation bin, which was most of it.
DONATE THE STUFF. Given my experience with stuff, I am a big fan of donating good quality stuff to charities that I know are doing good in the world. I know that my stuff is going to get to where it is needed most. That’s my first reward. The second reward is that the IRS pays me to do it. Seriously.
By donating our used items, in good or better condition, to qualified charitable organizations and deducting that donation because we itemize our income tax return, my husband and I easily claim thousands of dollars in valid tax deductions each year. And we do this confidently and legally because every year we follow the guidelines in a simple workbook, Money for Your Used Clothing, Tax Year 2017, produced by our friends and tax professionals William R. Lewis and Connie S. Edmond, with offices in Lincoln, Nebraska.
These people know their stuff (no pun intended). Their work is impeccable, too. Each year they send teams of people to audit thrift and second-hand stores throughout the country, certifying market values for used items. This is important because the IRS allows us to deduct on the true “market value” of each and everything we donate. That reduces the amount of tax we must pay. You and I have no way of determining what that is. Values change, so we dare not try to use the market values from say 2014 for the return we’ll file for Tax Year 2017. Or even the values we might have used last year in 2016.
The tricky thing here is that as individuals, we have no reliable way of determining what an item’s market value is—the amount the IRS will allow. If we value something too high, we set ourselves up for an audit. If we go too low, we’ll pay more taxes than required. Something else: Values change drastically from one year to the next, so we dare not try to use the market values from say 2014 for the return we’ll file for Tax Year 2017. Or even the values we might have used last year in 2016.
Money for Your Used Clothing, Tax Year 2017 is more than a valuations guide. It serves as a record for the details of the charities that receive our donations; a place to staple the receipts we collect throughout the year. We keep photos to document our donations in this workbook as well. And now for the best part—and a benefit offered by no other organization, tax preparer or market value lists that I know of:
Once I register our copy of Money for Your Used Clothing Tax Year 2017 (instructions are clearly presented in the workbook for how to do this and it’s easy), we have an Audit Protection Guarantee. That means if the values we use from this workbook to claim a charitable donation on our Tax Year 2017 return are called into question by the IRS via a tax audit, William Lewis, Connie Edmonds and their tax team will handle all of the communications with the IRS on our behalf. We don’t even have to show up at the audit—and they will pay all interest and penalties if the IRS ever determines the values we claimed were overstated up to $5,000 in donated value.
Donating used clothing and household goods to qualified charities has never been easier, thanks to this handy workbook and valuations guide. The Tax Year 2017 edition lists over 1,300 IRS-compliant values of everything you can imagine from socks, backpacks, computers, and cellphones to headboards, artificial flowers, lamps, pillows and even goalie pads!
While this valuable publication retails for $25, once again this year we are offering it to our Everyday Cheapskate readers and Debt-Proof Living members for just $20 plus shipping. I highly recommend that if you itemize your federal income tax return, make sure you are getting every allowable deduction. That’s the smart thing to do!
REMINDER: Donations for Tax Year 2017 (the return you must file on or before April 17, 2018) must be made before midnight on Dec. 31, 2017.