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Michael Green: Deduct donations to Haiti on your 2009 tax return

Green Taxes

Posted: March 3, 2010 9:35 p.m.
Updated: March 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
According to the IRS, people who give to charities providing earthquake relief in Haiti can claim these donations on the tax return they are completing this season. The new law was enacted after the 2009 forms, instructions and publications had already been printed.

Taxpayers who itemize deductions on their 2009 return qualify for this special tax relief provision, enacted Jan. 22, 2009. Only cash contributions made to these charities on Jan. 12, 2010, through Feb. 28, 2010, are eligible.

Contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card are also included.

Taxpayers have the option of deducting these contributions on either their 2009 or 2010 returns, but not both.

To get a tax benefit, taxpayers must itemize their deductions on Schedule A. Those who claim the standard deduction, including all short-form filers, are not eligible.

Taxpayers should be sure their contributions go to qualified charities. Most organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible donations are listed in a searchable online database available on www.IRS.gov under "Search for Charities." Some organizations, such as churches or governments, may be qualified even though they are not listed on www.IRS.gov.

Donors can find out more about organizations helping Haitian earthquake victims from agencies such as USAID at www.usaid.gov.

Keep in mind that donors who make contributions to foreign organizations generally are not deductible.

The IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, provides information on making contributions to charities.

Federal law requires that taxpayers keep a record of any deductible donations they make. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization donated to, the date of the contribution and the amount of the contribution.

For cash contributions made by other means, be sure to keep a bank record such as a canceled check, or a receipt from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution.

This year's special Haiti relief provision is modeled on a 2005 law that, in the wake of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, allowed taxpayers to deduct donations they made during January 2005 as if they made the donations in 2004.

Michael Green is an enrolled agent and certified financial planner in Valencia. He can be reached at (661) 257-4111. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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