It's that time of year: time to organize all your documents and start working on your 2012 tax return. If you're counting a charitable deduction, there's an important rule you need to know.
Mondays are always busy at the Goodwill donation drop-off site after people spend the weekend cleaning out closets.
“It's right on the way to work; once a year, I bring clothes here. Kids outgrow them. Toys they don't use anymore. Might as well give them to someone who can use it," Dale Zomer of Harrisburg said.
And Zomer makes sure to get his receipt to take advantage of the tax deduction for making the donation.
"We just give them to the tax man. I tell him what we donated and he takes care of it from there," Zomer said.
But the tax guy is finding that not all charitable donations are created equal.
"We are seeing many organizations that don't have that proper wording, including churches that don't have the proper wording on the receipt, to allow that taxpayer to take the deduction. If that wording is not on the receipt, the IRS will not allow the deduction," tax accountant Chuck Nelson said.
If the non-profit organization does not use the words, ”No goods or services were received in exchange for this donation," you could be out of luck in taking the deduction on your tax bill for any donation over $250.
“There are a lot of gray areas in the tax law, but this is black and white. You have to have to have proper wording and proof of payment to be able to take the contribution as a deduction," Nelson said.
Goodwill does have that wording on its receipts, but even with the correct documentation, just taking the deduction can raise a red flag with the IRS and you could end up being audited.
“Over the last few years, we've seen the IRS challenge, or audit, a number of tax payers to make sure they have the proper documentation and proof of payment to make sure they're eligible to take those donations on their tax return," Nelson said.
Another thing to keep in mind, you must have the proper receipt on your donation before you file you tax return. The IRS does not allow you to go back to the organization to get that receipt once you've been audited.