December is traditionally a month for giving generously to charities, friends and family. But it's also a time that can have a major impact on the tax return you'll file in the New Year. Here are some "Season of Giving" tips from the IRS covering everything from charity donations to refund planning:

  • Contribute to Qualified Charities. If you plan to take an itemized charitable deduction on your 2012 tax return, your donation must go to a qualified charity by Dec. 31. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit and use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool to check if your favorite charity is a qualified charity. Donations charged to a credit card by Dec. 31 are deductible for 2012, even if you pay the bill in 2013. A gift by check also counts for 2012 as long as you mail it in December. Gifts given to individuals, whether to friends, family or strangers, are not deductible.
  • What You Can Deduct. You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified charity. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.
  • Keep Records of All Donations. You need to keep a record of any donations you deduct, regardless of the amount. You must have a written record of all cash contributions to claim a deduction. This may include a cancelled check, bank or credit card statement or payroll deduction record. You can also ask the charity for a written statement that shows the charity's name, contribution date and amount.
  • Gather Records in a Safe Place. As long as you're gathering those records for your charitable contributions, it's a good time to start rounding up documents you will need to file your tax return in 2013. This includes receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you will claim on your tax return. Be sure to store them in a safe place so you can easily access them later when you file your tax return.
  • Plan Ahead for Major Purchases. If you are making major purchases during the holiday season, don't base them solely on the expectation of receiving your tax refund before the bills arrive. Many factors can impact the timing of a tax refund. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days after receiving a tax return. However, if your tax return requires additional review, it may take longer to receive your refund.

For more information about contributions, check out Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. The booklet is available on or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


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Upcoming Tax Dates

October 10 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Columbus Day) - Details

October 11 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during September, report them to your employer - Details

October 13 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method (special September deposit rule).
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the period beginning September 12 and ending September 15.

October 14 — Regular method taxes (special September deposit rule).
Deposit the tax for the last 4 days of September.

October 17 — Individuals
If you have an automatic 6-month extension to file your income tax return for 2015, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due - Details

October 17 — Partnerships
Electing large partnerships: File a 2015 calendar year return (Form 1065-B). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 6-month extension - Details

October 17 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

October 17 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

October 26 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 15 days of September.

October 28 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days in October.

October 31 — Certain small employers
Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2016 but less than $2,500 for the third quarter.

October 31 — Federal unemployment tax
Deposit the tax owed through September if more than $500.

October 31 — Form 720 taxes.
File Form 720 for the third quarter of 2016.

October 31 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during September.

October 31 — Heavy highway vehicle tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in September.

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