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"Give Now!" Hours Left for Tax Benefits

PHOTO: The rush is on today for charitable donations, to beat the December 31st tax deadline. Despite the sense of urgency, Joanne Reisser at Charity Navigator says it's smart to take a few steps back to ensure your donations will qualify for a tax deduction. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
PHOTO: The rush is on today for charitable donations, to beat the December 31st tax deadline. Despite the sense of urgency, Joanne Reisser at Charity Navigator says it's smart to take a few steps back to ensure your donations will qualify for a tax deduction. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
December 31, 2013

BALTIMORE - The rush is on today for charitable donations - to beat the December 31 tax deadline. Although there's a sense of urgency, according to Joanne Reisser, vice president for development at Charity Navigator, it's smart to take a few steps to ensure that your donations will qualify for a tax deduction; order to receive the deduction, donations must be made to legitimate, registered charities. Additionally, she advised, check to see if the charitable cause is really making a difference.

"Look for more than just storytelling: look for real evidence of results, perhaps a number of people served," she stressed. "That's better than just saying 'We save lives, period.'"

Reisser said she recommends looking at the organization's website, reading their fundraising appeals, and searching online for financial information.

There are close to 2 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, and roughly 7000 of them are rated at CharityNavigator.org.

When it comes to donating goods such as household items and clothing, Reisser said good record-keeping is essential, including a written acknowledgement from the charity for any donation worth $250 or more.

"Charities really are not allowed to value a donation," she noted. "It's up to donors to value what it is that they're donating."

Only taxpayers who itemize using IRS form 1040 can claim deductions for charitable donations. Detailed rules and forms are available at IRS.gov.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD