Give Now, Claim a Deduction for Last Year
Americans have been given a special tax break for donations to help earthquake victims in Haiti, thanks to a new law signed by President Obama.
Until March 1, 2010, taxpayers will be allowed to claim a deduction in tax year 2009 for donations made on behalf of Haiti relief efforts.
Normally, contributions are deductible for the year in which they are actually made. So without the special exception, you wouldn't be able to claim deductions for this year's charitable gift until you filed your 2010 tax return in 2011.
The new law also allows taxpayers who donate via text messages to use phone bills as proof of a donation.
Only monetary gifts made specifically to qualified organizations for Haiti earthquake relief are eligible for the accelerated tax break.
Contributions to domestic charities that provide assistance to individuals in foreign lands, such as Haiti, can qualify as tax-deductible contributions for federal tax purposes -- if the U.S. organization has control and discretion over the use of the funds.
Domestic organizations are defined as those created under the laws of the United States or its possessions. Religious groups are also qualified charitable organizations.
Direct contributions to foreign organizations are generally not tax-deductible, unless they are permitted by a tax treaty.
You can search the IRS list of qualified organizations by visiting http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html
Keep in mind that charitable write-offs, which reduce the amount of income subject to taxes, can only be claimed by those who itemize, rather than take the standard deduction.
Keep Records to Prove a Donation. The IRS requires that you have a bank record or written acknowledgment from the charity before filing your return.
Where to Give: There are numerous qualified charities collecting for Haiti victims. In a fund-raising appeal made last week, President Obama recommended Americans give to the fund created by former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.