Donate Your Car To Charity Guide
Best charities to donate to is a kind and generous act that would seem to be an easy way to help a charity, plus get a tax deduction to boot. Car donation can be an easy process only if you have done your homework on the charity you pick, including whether it is a middleman (for-profit organization.) The procedure involved in transferring the vehicle, paperwork for tax deduction purposes, and information about what the charity will actually receive after the auction house plus car towing company has taken their cut. You may find that you want to deliver the car to the charity yourself to avoid the high cost of pick up when you donate your vehicle.
Car donations – points to consider so everybody wins
Car donation agencies, or for-profit organizations as they are more commonly known, often provide the easiest way for you to donate your car to a charity. This is because they often handle all the paperwork between you and the charities, providing pick-up of the vehicle and giving you a receipt for the transaction. Unfortunately though for the charity concerned this is the least helpful to them, this is because of the cut in proceeds from the sale of the vehicle that they receive compared to the share that the middleman takes. Even some of the more ethical donating your car agencies keep up to half of the car’s sale price, and some less reputable agencies keep as much as 90 percent of the transaction. So if you have no choice in using a car donation agency it is important for you to check the split in proceeds between them and your charity. If it is too high a split, or they refuse to tell you, then you should move on to another agency, for which there are many for you to choose from.
You maybe wondering why charities put up with these unscrupulous agencies; it is because they do not want to rock the boat with these agencies who provide them with donations that they rely on. Also, some charities are not in a position to run the car donation process themselves, hence the need for these donate car middlemen. Some of the more unethical and greedy agencies are now being investigated and prosecuted by local state attorneys as they are misleading the public on actually how much the charities receive, and in some cases portraying to the public a false impression that they are a charitable organization. You may think that because you receive a car donation tax deduction by relinquishing your car to these for-profit organizations that the percentage that they take from a charity is set by the IRS. This is not the case, the IRS has no influence into setting a percentage amount that should go to the charity. This is agreed between the charity and the agency concerned.
Check your car donation charity is an IRS approved organization– If you decide to donate your car to your favorite charity direct then for tax deduction purposes you need to check that the charity is an IRS-approved 501 (c)(3) organization which is filed under publication 78 on the IRS website. You can also find valuable information in a PDF report produced by the Internal Revenue Service that details how to donate your car to charity and receive a donate car tax deduction.
Take care in filling out the car transfer paperwork– You will sometimes find that charities prefer that you leave the car assignment ownership space blank on the form. This is convenient for the charity concerned as they do not have to go through the re-title of the automobile paperwork. Whatever you do – DO NOT DO THIS! If you leave the space blank and not formally transferring the auto over to the organization this can leave you open to a world of hurt in the future. As the charity rarely uses the vehicle for their own purposes, they will try and sell the vehicle as fast as they can at auction. If the new owner fails to register the vehicle in their own name then the law will hold you as responsible for the car. You would then be held accountable for any parking tickets, speeding fines and even worse if used in a criminal act it will be your neck on the line. If the charity wants you to leave the ownership transfer blank, then you can inform them that you cannot do that for the reason discussed, and if they insist you should walk away and find another charity. The risks that you face are just too great not to.
Car donation value for tax purposes– when you donate your car to charity if the fair market value of your vehicle is worth less than $500, then you can use the Kelley Blue Book or a similar valuation source to complete your tax return with their valuation, rather than evidence of the amount that the charity eventually receives at auction. This valuation method can also be used for when the charity uses the vehicle for their own day to day business.
If your car donations value is greater than $500, then the IRS will require evidence from the charity on the full amount they received for the vehicle. So if you know that your vehicle will have a value over $500, or suspect that it might be over this limit, then you will need to obtain a receipt from your charity on how much they got for your vehicle. If you do not obtain the receipt form them, you will be unable to claim the value on your tax return as you have to provide evidence of sale proceeds upon completion of the tax form. Most charities will provide a receipt for your records, but you will need to request it as they may not automatically provide one as a matter of course.
Summary of important points to consider when you donate your car to charity
Cut out the agency middleman if you can and donate straight to your charity of choice
If you have to use a donation agency – check the vehicle proceeds percentage that the charity receives after agency admin costs. Avoid the for-profit organizations that take a cut over 25 – 30 %
If possible deliver the car to the charity yourself as towing costs eat into your charitable donation
If donation likely to be over $500 then you need a receipt after the charity sells your vehicle for tax deduction purposes
Make sure the charity is an IRS approved organization to get your tax deduction
When you donate your car you must never leave the vehicle ownership blank on the transfer form – name the charity as new owner to protect yourself against possible prosecution and fines attributed to the vehicle owner in the future
If you keep in mind these important points when you donate your car to your favorite charity, it will keep your transaction safe and will ensure your donation helps those who need it most.
You can find guidance on the important steps to take in getting the most value out of your car donation by following the tips on the following page Donating a car.
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