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This is not a question but a comment. I have gone to great lengths the last two years to keep track of our charitable contributions that totaled about $6,500 in 2010 and $7,500 in 2011. I consider this to be a lot of donations and is more than 10% of our taxable income, but TurboTax says we should take the standard deduction of $13,600 ($11,400 + $2,200 because we are old) that larger, even totaling the real estate taxes, charitable contributions, medical expense (just paying Medicare-B and backup insurance comes to more the 7.5% of our AGI). So we don't file a Schedule A at all.

Why do I keep gathering all the items for Schedule A. I don't know whether to laugh or cry because doing all the accounting for Schedule A takes a lot of time as we are not talking about just two or three donations, for example. Actually three donations account for about 50% of our donations, but the others are an almost endless string of donations at $25, $50 or $100 a pop. I guess I like to know the total of our donations, but it is a lot of work to do so and has nothing to do with our taxes it turns out. And at that, I don't keep track of mileage for volunteer work and donations of clothing or other items and they certainly don't total thousands of dollars.

brucedoe
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,i>This is not a question but a comment. I have gone to great lengths the last two years to keep track of our charitable contributions that totaled about $6,500 in 2010 and $7,500 in 2011. I consider this to be a lot of donations and is more than 10% of our taxable income, but TurboTax says we should take the standard deduction of $13,600 ($11,400 + $2,200 because we are old) that larger, even totaling the real estate taxes, charitable contributions, medical expense (just paying Medicare-B and backup insurance comes to more the 7.5% of our AGI). So we don't file a Schedule A at all.

If your income and potential deduction situation is stable from year to year then you can forgo collecting all of the detail. However, if your income were to drop significantly (increasing allowable medical deductions) or your deductions were to increase (more medical expense or contributions) you would want to itemize. Taking a standard deduction is actually a good thing. It means you aren't giving as much money to others (that is, those recipients that qualify as itemized deductions) as Congress is willing to give you off the top of your income and you have more money left in your pocket.

Ira
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Actually three donations account for about 50% of our donations, but the others are an almost endless string of donations at $25, $50 or $100 a pop. I guess I like to know the total of our donations, but it is a lot of work to do so and has nothing to do with our taxes it turns out.

My dad did that too. He gave $25 to a very large number of charities. I decided to do the opposite: a favor to both myself and the charities.

If you give money, however little, to a charity they will, on the average, send you a letter a month asking for more. And some operate telephone banks that call you every month or so for more money. If you give them $25/year, it will all be wasted on letters and telephone calls. So I just give to 12 charities and only once a year each. When a charitable boiler room telemarkets me, I ask them which of my 12 existing charities I should cut off in order to have some for them. That usually ends the conversation. If my contribution levels were identical, I would give 8% of my annual charitable contributions to each, but I have some favorites and they get more, and therefore, some get less. But if I do not like a chaity at least $250/year worth, they get none.
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If you give money, however little, to a charity they will, on the average, send you a letter a month asking for more. And some operate telephone banks that call you every month or so for more money. If you give them $25/year, it will all be wasted on letters and telephone calls. So I just give to 12 charities and only once a year each.


ditto.

though my list is closer to six .. and a couple of them get two checks per year


=
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irasmilo:

OP: {{{This is not a question but a comment. I have gone to great lengths the last two years to keep track of our charitable contributions that totaled about $6,500 in 2010 and $7,500 in 2011. I consider this to be a lot of donations and is more than 10% of our taxable income, but TurboTax says we should take the standard deduction of $13,600 ($11,400 + $2,200 because we are old) that larger, even totaling the real estate taxes, charitable contributions, medical expense (just paying Medicare-B and backup insurance comes to more the 7.5% of our AGI). So we don't file a Schedule A at all."}}}

"If your income and potential deduction situation is stable from year to year then you can forgo collecting all of the detail. However, if your income were to drop significantly (increasing allowable medical deductions) or your deductions were to increase (more medical expense or contributions) you would want to itemize. Taking a standard deduction is actually a good thing. It means you aren't giving as much money to others (that is, those recipients that qualify as itemized deductions) as Congress is willing to give you off the top of your income and you have more money left in your pocket.

Ira, would it not make sense for the OP to double stack his donations and depending upon the state and its laws, real estate taxes, so that one year the deductible exceeded the standard deduction and the other year it was even further below the deductible amount?

I know from experience that the charities would prefer to have a donation every year instead of 2x one year and zero the other year, but the taxpayer (OP) is in control of the timing.

Regards, JAFO
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I tell my clients (and myself) who are in this situation to just drop the receipts in an envelope until the end of the year when they know what their income is and can determine if it is worthwhile to itemize or take standard deduction. Same thing with just about everybody and medical expenses. If you ended up having some catastrophic out of pocket expenses at the end of the year, it would be nice to have a file of receipts for early in the year when you didn't think you would need them.

Another consideration is where you live and how your state tax is figured if you have one. For example, in Oregon you can itemize on the state taxes even if you take standard deduction on federal. Oregon's standard deduction is tiny in comparison. Also, if you are age 62 or older, you can take all of your medical as an itemized deduction on the state return.

So, I use standard deduction on federal and itemize on state.
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I know from experience that the charities would prefer to have a donation every year instead of 2x one year and zero the other year, but the taxpayer (OP) is in control of the timing.

There's the option that if you want to do ~$3K/year, you give $3k on Jan 1, 2011, and mail a check to them for $3K on Dec. 30 2011. Then another $3K Jan. 2013 and another $3K Dec. 2013.

IRS sees it as $6K, $0, $6K, $0 donations for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.
Charity gets to view it as $3K/year that they receive in early Jan. every year.
If the charity works that their year is same as calendar year, it still works out for them, since they won't get the check until after Jan. 1st. because the mail takes a little while.

I believe that if you have written the check and sent it to the charity it counts for that tax-year - even if they don't cash it until the next year. IIRC, it's when you have lost control of the money.
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Along with with alternating years for charitible deductions, you might have the option of timing of part of your property tax. Alternating paying 1 1/2 one year and 1/2 the next year.
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vkg: "Along with with alternating years for charitible deductions, you might have the option of timing of part of your property tax. Alternating paying 1 1/2 one year and 1/2 the next year."

If you are in Texsa, you can time it to be 2x and 0.

Tax bills generally arrive in October and you have until 1/31/ of the following year to pay without being delinquent. The bill becomes delinquent if February 1 arrives without payment having been received.

Thus one year you pay in January (for the prior year) before delinquency and then you pay in December of the same year for the current year.

The following year make no tax payments; make it in January of the following year for the year just ended. Then for the next year make it in December to double up.

Regards, JAFO
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Wondering why the record keeping is such a chore. Ever hear of Quicken? If you are using TurboTax it makes even more sense because they share information.
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Wondering why the record keeping is such a chore. Ever hear of Quicken?

I stick all medical and charitable receipts into their respective manila folders inside a tax file for each year and periodically arrange them in chronological order. I keep track of our expenditures on a monthly basis. At the end of each month I go over the credit card bills and bank statement and enter all medical and charitable expenditures into an Excel spreadsheet. At the end of the year I match the spreadsheet against the receipts. Nothing as sophisticated as Quicken is needed. It takes me probably no more than an hour per year total to come up with our medical and charitable deductions for Schedule A--90 minutes tops.

--fleg
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Nothing as sophisticated as Quicken is needed. It takes me probably no more than an hour per year total to come up with our medical and charitable deductions for Schedule A--90 minutes tops.

--fleg

==============================
I certainly agree with respect to the charitable contributions; with the medical it's different. If you have enough medical expenses to itemize and deduct them, I think some ongoing analysis and scrutiny during the year is warranted, if only to monitor where you stand with your health insurance as to deductible and co-pay amounts, adjustments to/from providers, and if you've been credited for what you should be, etc.

I our family it used to be more challenging, with a daughter who had quite a few health problems. I used to keep an elaborate spreadsheet to keep track of what had been put through our flex plan(s)- and my wife and I are on different plan years, which actually helps - what had been applied to deductibles; etc. I used Lotus back in those days, except for one year I tried dBase IV just as an experiment. Switched back the next year.

I agree, things like contributions or other deductions are easy - just file them in that year's tax file. And several times during the year I will go through my check register and underline in red the deductible items, which I will recap when it comes time to do the returns.

Bill
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Wondering why the record keeping is such a chore. Ever hear of Quicken?

I stick all medical and charitable receipts into their respective manila folders inside a tax file for each year and periodically arrange them in chronological order. I keep track of our expenditures on a monthly basis. At the end of each month I go over the credit card bills and bank statement and enter all medical and charitable expenditures into an Excel spreadsheet. At the end of the year I match the spreadsheet against the receipts. Nothing as sophisticated as Quicken is needed. It takes me probably no more than an hour per year total to come up with our medical and charitable deductions for Schedule A--90 minutes tops.


More to the point, using Quicken does not eliminate the need to have receipts proving charitable and medical expenses. Further, user error in Quicken can produce the wrong answer for taxes. If I put $5 in the Salvation Army kettle, that's charity in Quicken. But I have no receipt, so it's not charity on my Schedule A.

It's actually easier for me to track this stuff with a paper file and an Excel spreadsheet than to extract it from Quicken and be sure the answer Quicken gives me is supportable.

Patzer
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I happen to hate Quicken (YMMV), so I use GnuCash. But even a spreadsheet can manage this. One column for income, one for charitable contributions, one for medical expenses, etc.

I never found Quicken that useful for imports into TurboTax. It always screwed up, and it was difficult to fix the screw-ups.

One year, it renumbered all the categories internally (probably a program bug), so every category was off and put the amounts into the next higher category. Intuit's help was useless. They said to reboot. That did not work. They said to reinstall Quicken. That did not help either. They said to restore from backup. I had daily backups for the previous week, weekly backups for the previous month, and monthly backups for the previous year. It turned out I had to use a backup for the previous year, and they thought nothing of telling me to just enter all the transactions for the previous year. About then I switched to GnuCash. And a few years later, I switched to TaxAct. So I am through with Intuit.
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If you give money, however little, to a charity they will, on the average, send you a letter a month asking for more. And some operate telephone banks that call you every month or so for more money. If you give them $25/year, it will all be wasted on letters and telephone calls. So I just give to 12 charities and only once a year each. When a charitable boiler room telemarkets me, I ask them which of my 12 existing charities I should cut off in order to have some for them. That usually ends the conversation. If my contribution levels were identical, I would give 8% of my annual charitable contributions to each, but I have some favorites and they get more, and therefore, some get less. But if I do not like a chaity at least $250/year worth, they get none.


I hate to hijack this thread, but, you have brought up one of my irritations with regard to charitable giving. I have often given a very modest amount to some worthy but low on my priority list only to see them spend more that the amount I donated on postage, mailing labels, dimes, note pads, catalogs, etc. I wish there was an effective way to get off of these mailing and telephone lists. I often get the impression that those making the telephone calls aren't able to take names off of the list.

Bob

Bob
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I often get the impression that those making the telephone calls aren't able to take names off of the list.

Some of them really can't. They are not employees of the charity. They work for mass telemarketing companies that get a telephone list from the charity, and just call the numbers.
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I often get the impression that those making the telephone calls aren't able to take names off of the list.

Charities must maintain their own do not call list. It doesn't change any of the mailing options.
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JeanDavid

Your comment of a $25 donation is not helping much because of all the "Thanks for your your donation. Wouldn't you like to give a little more?" expenses the charity goes through. Like you I have wondered if it is worth it. I do have some of these charities trained not to contact me again.

brucedoe
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If you give money, however little, to a charity they will, on the average, send you a letter a month asking for more. And some operate telephone banks that call you every month or so for more money. If you give them $25/year, it will all be wasted on letters and telephone calls.

Quite often those fund raising activities are carried on by an outside company. That company is compensated as a percentage of the funds they raise. The costs of the mail and phone solicitations are borne by the fund raising company.

If you are really concerned about the issue, you can always ask to get a copy of the charity's Form 990. That will show how much of their money is spent on fund raising vs. doing their actual charitable work.

--Peter
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If the charity does its own funding raising, you can enclose a note with your check stating you wish only to give once a year, and asking them not to waste time and money soliciting you more often. The good ones will comply. The ones who don't should be dropped from your giving list.
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I often get the impression that those making the telephone calls aren't able to take names off of the list.

The slimier the charity, the more difficult it is to be removed from their phone list. Any one answering the phone can demand that the number be added to their do not call list. The response to the demand is often lies.

For some of these "charities", the telemarketers take 90+% of the donations. Those on the phone are under significant pressure or directly paid by the amount of donations they obtain.

We went through a time where the slimiest of telemarketers had obtained my husband's name and home phone number. The only way that I know it was the same telemarketer was by googling the "charity" names and finding the law suits filed by multiple states against their common telemarketer.
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Don't forget that if you have to take from your IRA (RMD) you can have the IRA cut a check to charity and it in effect becomes deductible as it isn't included in income. I believe 2011 is the last year you can do this.
What I have had some of my clients do is cut checks in January and then in December then skip a year.
just a couple of thoughts
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Don't forget that if you have to take from your IRA (RMD) you can have the IRA cut a check to charity and it in effect becomes deductible as it isn't included in income. I believe 2011 is the last year you can do this.

That one was extended through 2012.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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What I have had some of my clients do is cut checks in January and then in December then skip a year.

Unless this is for the year they turn 70 1/2, I don't understand how this works. RMD are annual. Taking two distributions in one year does not eliminate the need to take a distribution the next year.
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