Giving to charity may make you feel good and help you lower your tax bill. The IRS offers these nine tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. If you want a tax deduction, you must donate to a qualified charitable organization. You cannot deduct contributions you make to either an individual, a political organization or a political candidate
  2. You must file Form 1040 and itemize your deductions on Schedule A. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is more than $500, you must also file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, with your tax return.
  3. If you receive a benefit of some kind in return for your contribution, you can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit you received. Examples of benefits you may receive in return for your contribution include merchandise, tickets to an event or other goods and services.
  4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at fair market value. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
  5. Fair market value is generally the price at which someone can sell the property.
  6. You must have a written record about your donation in order to deduct any cash gift, regardless of the amount. Cash contributions include those made by check or other monetary methods. That written record can be a written statement from the organization, a bank record or a payroll deduction record that substantiates your donation. That documentation should include the name of the organization, the date and amount of the contribution. A telephone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.
  7. To claim a deduction for gifts of cash or property worth $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the qualified organization. The statement must show the amount of the cash or a description of any property given. It must also state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.
  8. You may use the same document to meet the requirement for a written statement for cash gifts and the requirement for a written acknowledgement for contributions of $250 or more.
  9. If you donate one item or a group of similar items that are valued at more than $5,000, you must also complete Section B of Form 8283. This section generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

For more information on charitable contributions, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information about noncash contributions, see Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. Forms and publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Both TaxACT Free Federal and Deluxe Editions include Forms 1040 and 8283 and Schedule A. To help you maximize the value of your non-cash charitable contributions, Donation Assistant® in TaxACT Deluxe provides fair market, audit-backed values for nearly 1,300 items. Watch this short video to learn more about Donation Assistant.

After starting your TaxACT return, you can navigate to the section of the federal interview that covers charitable contributions by clicking on the "Federal Q&A" tab, selecting the "Itemized or Standard Deductions" link and then "Charitable contributions".

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Upcoming Tax Dates

September 7 Everyone
Federal Holiday (Labor Day) - Details

September 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report them to your employer - Details

September 10 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of August.

September 14 Regular method taxes
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September 15 Individuals
Make a payment of your 2015 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the third installment - Details

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September 29 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method (special September deposit rule).
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September 30 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during August.

September 30 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in August.

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