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Hi all,

My husband and I just completed a yard sale, and want to donate the unsold items to charity. We will keep our receipts, and no donation will be more than $250. My understanding is that we can take up to a $500 deduction for this on our tax return. Question -- is that $500 per person, or $500 total?

Thanks for any help, and apologies if this has been asked before.

Regards,

Barbara
Home Fool
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Hi all,

My husband and I just completed a yard sale, and want to donate the unsold items to charity. We will keep our receipts, and no donation will be more than $250. My understanding is that we can take up to a $500 deduction for this on our tax return. Question -- is that $500 per person, or $500 total?

Thanks for any help, and apologies if this has been asked before.

Regards,
Barbara
Home Fool

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The $500 is not a limit on what you deduct. You can deduct much more than that - the fair market value, up to 50% of your AGI, or 30% for capital gain property.

But if you give over $500 (in total) in noncash items, you have to include Form 8283 with your return. And in my experience, this will NOT usually generate an audit, as long as you don't go overboard with things. I'm always amused by people whose favorite charity is Goodwill, and all they donate is used household items.

More particulars are in IRS Pub. 526

Bill
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But if you give over $500 (in total) in noncash items, you have to include Form 8283 with your return. And in my experience, this will NOT usually generate an audit, as long as you don't go overboard with things.

I agree. In 2001 I inherited 1.5 residences of stuff, much of which wound up donated. So much, in fact, that I wound up hitting the 50% of AGI limit and carrying some forward to the next year. Keep good records and deduct what you're entitled to deduct.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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I'm always amused by people whose favorite charity is Goodwill, and all they donate is used household items.

Why are you amused?

I donate a bunch of stuff to Goodwill.

PSU
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Why are you amused?

I donate a bunch of stuff to Goodwill.


Consider the accounting definition not the benevolence definition
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Consider the accounting definition not the benevolence definition

Okay, what's amusing about the accounting definition?

PSU
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Okay, what's amusing about the accounting definition?

The accounting definition adds some irony to the context.

Not amused? That's okay :)
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The accounting definition adds some irony to the context.

You'll have to be a bit less circumspect for those of us that aren't accountants so don't know what the accounting definition is.

FWIW, I find it amusing from what I think of as the "normal" definition - that is that they're "giving" to a charitable organization, when really it seems what they're really doing is getting rid of stuff they don't want and just dumping it with the charity because of the tax writeoff.
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FWIW, I find it amusing from what I think of as the "normal" definition - that is that they're "giving" to a charitable organization, when really it seems what they're really doing is getting rid of stuff they don't want and just dumping it with the charity because of the tax writeoff.
==============================
That was what I was getting at, also.

Bill
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FWIW, I find it amusing from what I think of as the "normal" definition - that is that they're "giving" to a charitable organization, when really it seems what they're really doing is getting rid of stuff they don't want and just dumping it with the charity because of the tax writeoff.

Some people do know the mission of a charity and do give to support that charity. Sometimes those donations are in the form of property, not cash.

PSU
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You'll have to be a bit less circumspect for those of us that aren't accountants so don't know what the accounting definition is.

Very well. The accounting definition is "intangible value of an asset over its book value"

- The emotional link to donated items, and therefore a mis-pricing of the value of the donated
items is where I was headed. I was putting a more diplomatic spin to the "getting rid of stuff
they don't want" angle. After all, the mis-pricing could occasionally work the other way e.g.
works of art purchased at Thrift stores that were actually a lot more valuable than the donor
ever imagined.
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- The emotional link to donated items, and therefore a mis-pricing of the value of the donated
items is where I was headed. I was putting a more diplomatic spin to the "getting rid of stuff
they don't want" angle.


So if I have a garage sale instead and then donate the cash to charity, I won't get snickered at by the tax professionals.

PSU
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So if I have a garage sale instead and then donate the cash to charity, I won't get snickered at by the tax professionals.

PSU

=======================
Absolutely not. There's more of a sincere quality to your generosity in that case, where cash is involved. Except nobody does that.

Bill
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Some people do know the mission of a charity and do give to support that charity. Sometimes those donations are in the form of property, not cash.
Yes - sometimes they do.
The point was about someone where ALL of their donations are household goods.

For the guy whose only donation is Salvation Army/Goodwill/St. Vincent dePaul, and has no donations other than household goods (Nothing to church or another religious org. Nothing to any educational institutions/organizations. Nothing to any other charity.)
Which is more likely
A> The shirts/pants/household-goods/etc going to the Goodwill instead of the dump because he gets a tax writeoff.
B> He really appreciates the mission of Goodwill, and finds this to be the best way for him to support it.

I'd bet 99 times out of 100 it's A.
Because someone who really appreciates the mission of Goodwill, is very likely to appreciate the mission of other charities. And they'll make donations to those charities.

I appreciate Goodwill - and I certainly donate stuff to them that I no longer need - and I happily document the highest reasonable price I could get for the item and use that on my taxes. And frankly it's probably because of the tax deduction that it goes to them sometimes instead of the dumpster. (I'm not going to spend 1/2 hour of time selling on ebay a $5 pair of shorts) But that isn't my only charitable giving either.
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And, of course, there are all of us who donate stuff to Goodwill without consideration of taxes and take no tax credits/benefits! I'll have to check out my 'sincerity levels'; must be a quart low.

JimA
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Absolutely not. There's more of a sincere quality to your generosity in that case, where cash is involved. Except nobody does that.

Why would it be more sincere to give cash? Would you be snickering if I donated suitcases to a battered female shelter, towels and food to a pet shelter or furniture to a veteran's group? What you think about people who give cash as church out of obligation to God instead of any real desire to be charitable?

Do some people dump trash (torn clothes, broken household items) on Goodwill? Sure. Do you know by looking at a tax return if the charitable gift is in good condition? Probably not in many cases. Some people are confusing unwanted with worthless. Just because something is no longer wanted does not mean the item has no value. I no longer wanted my last vehicle. Does that mean I should just have given it away on Freecycle instead of selling it? Are you judgmental of all your clients?

PSU
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And, of course, there are all of us who donate stuff to Goodwill without consideration of taxes and take no tax credits/benefits! I'll have to check out my 'sincerity levels'; must be a quart low.

JimA

==============================
Depends. So you're not doing it for the tax deduction. But -

1. Are you really doing it to benefit the charity, or because it's a convenient way to get rid of stuff that doesn't go in the trash or recycling easily?

2. How do your cash contributions compare to the noncash(junk)?

It's those two factors that determine your charitable sincerity.

Bill
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For the guy whose only donation is Salvation Army/Goodwill/St. Vincent dePaul, and has no donations other than household goods

He didn't say only charity, he said favorite charity. If you were to look at my tax return, you would see that there are more entries for Goodwill than any other charity. It isn't because Goodwill is my favorite charity. It's because when I have something here or there that I no longer need, they're one mile down the road. I don't have a long list of charities on my return because I'd rather give a larger donation to one charity than to give little donations to a whole bunch of them.

PSU
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1. Are you really doing it to benefit the charity, or because it's a convenient way to get rid of stuff that doesn't go in the trash or recycling easily?

I would prefer landfill not filling with usable items. It is easier to dump it than to donate it. Of course, you think I'm more sincere to wake up earlier on a weekend, set stuff up in the driveway, dicker all morning with people over price of an item and then donate the cash to Goodwill than it is to drive the items down to Goodwill and donate the items directly. So to answer your question, yes it is a convenient way to get rid of good quality usable items because I loathe holding garage sales.

2. How do your cash contributions compare to the noncash(junk)?

Nice of you to put junk next to noncash. Noncash does not mean junk.

PSU
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1. Are you really doing it to benefit the charity, or because it's a convenient way to get rid of stuff that doesn't go in the trash or recycling easily?

2. How do your cash contributions compare to the noncash(junk)?

It's those two factors that determine your charitable sincerity.


I find this discussion of charitable sincerity to be kind of silly. What difference does it really make to the charity if the person's top motivation is not that it helps the charity? In the first case, it looks like a win for both the charity and the donor regardless of why the donor chose to give to that particular charity. About 2 years ago, I got to clean out FIL's house which had the entire contents of 3 estates. My choices were to rent a dumpster to throw everything out, donate it all to Goodwill and let them sort it, or sort it to throw what was really useless, but donate the rest to Goodwill. I chose the 3rd option, and don't find that to be a problem because Goodwill got a ton of stuff they could resell and convert to cash to support their work, someone else got something that still had life in it for a good price, and I was able to get rid of all that stuff without just throwing it in the trash, which seemed wasteful.

As far as your 2nd point in terms of if someone donates more cash than noncash, which I note you seem to classify as always junk, in my case above, that was a year where there was much more noncash donated because of the volume of stuff and not because I didn't also contribute cash to my usual charities. But I know lots of folks who don't have a lot of money and so donate their time as well as things they might no longer be using because that's the only way they can give at all.
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I would prefer landfill not filling with usable items. It is easier to dump it than to donate it. Of course, you think I'm more sincere to wake up earlier on a weekend, set stuff up in the driveway, dicker all morning with people over price of an item and then donate the cash to Goodwill than it is to drive the items down to Goodwill and donate the items directly.

No one is suggesting that anyone should do that. The point is that a lot of people act like they're being real "charitable", when what they're doing is using Goodwill as a dumping ground for their JUNK, and then they give nothing, or next to nothing, to charity, in the form of MONEY.

Nice of you to put junk next to noncash. Noncash does not mean junk.

Except that most of it really is.

Bill
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You should go to the Millionaire Fools board way back and look for the silence when I entitled a thread Philanthropy.

It's those two factors that determine your charitable sincerity.

LOL - it's smug all over TMF today.
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"For the guy whose only donation is Salvation Army/Goodwill/St. Vincent dePaul, and has no donations other than household goods"
He didn't say only charity, he said favorite charity
Let's check what was said -
"whose favorite charity is Goodwill, and all they donate is used household items"
I'd say my re-statement is accurate.
I didn't say Goodwill was the only charity either.
If you feel I skipped a charity that I should have included with those 3, feel free to consider it included with an implicit "etc." - those 3 are the largest ones I know of for accepting donations of used household goods

If you were to look at my tax return, you would see that there are more entries for Goodwill than any other charity.
It isn't about whether most of the line items are to Goodwill - it's about when all of them are Goodwill and similar places.
Have all your donations to charities have been used household goods? You haven't made a donation to the local church? Or to boy/girl scouts? Or local school?
90% of the time when someone "gives" something to Goodwill it is not because they think of Goodwill as a great charity - it's because they want to get rid of stuff from their house/garage/apartment/storage/whatever.

If you don't understand why people would assume less than stellar motivation about someone who ONLY donates used household goods, I'm afraid I can't explain it. (And for those who postulate it's only what's documented/reported on taxes - who documents donating a household good donation, but doesn't bother documenting actual monetary donations? )
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Have all your donations to charities have been used household goods? You haven't made a donation to the local church? Or to boy/girl scouts? Or local school?
90% of the time when someone "gives" something to Goodwill it is not because they think of Goodwill as a great charity - it's because they want to get rid of stuff from their house/garage/apartment/storage/whatever.


Since you are posting made-up statistics (90% of Goodwill), I think 90% of local church donations are out of obligation, not because they want to help the poor.

PSU
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Since you are posting made-up statistics (90% of Goodwill),
Yes, it's made up - just like when I said 99 out of 100 earlier.
But I'd be willing to bet that it's accurate enough for response if I asked some people dropping stuff off at Goodwill (or similar place): "Do you mind if I ask you why you're donating these items today? Is it because you are trying to free up some space in your home?"
It might be 75%. it might be 95%. But I'd bet it's the majority by a significant margin.

I think 90% of local church donations are out of obligation, not because they want to help the poor.
That'd be a false dichotomy.
I don't consider my donations to a church to be obligation, nor to help the poor. A significant amount of my donation goes to maintaining the building. Another big chunk goes to pay church staff. Then there are other missions of the church - for example some funds support a substance abuse support program, and some funds support disaster relief missions. A relatively small percentage goes to the poor (ex. Heifer International and CROP walk)

But really this is quite a bit afield - church is just ONE possible charity - there are thousands of other charities if you have an objection to donating to church. And unless I'm misreading your comment, you do object to that - so feel free to pick other ones - I mentioned some other examples, and there are many many many many more.
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But I'd be willing to bet that it's accurate enough for response if I asked some people dropping stuff off at Goodwill (or similar place): "Do you mind if I ask you why you're donating these items today? Is it because you are trying to free up some space in your home?"
It might be 75%. it might be 95%. But I'd bet it's the majority by a significant margin.


How about freeing up some space in my home AND helping someone else? I think some people have selective hearing and only hear the part before the AND. If I wanted to free up space in my home, it is far easier to carry it 75 feet to the curb. For the small items like clothing - into the curbside garbage can. For large items, craigslist curb-alert. You know some people actually do care that their used items can be of use to someone else less fortunate.

PSU
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That'd be a false dichotomy.

Since you are familiar with this logical fallacy, maybe you could examine your own posts for some? I see examples of leading questions, from ignorance, appeal to popularity, hasty generalization, fallacy of exclusion and...false dichotomy.
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This discussion is unhelpful and filled with issues of semantics and assumptions.

I'd prefer this discussion to segue into how best to declare these types of donations for beginners like myself.

This reminds me of another unhelpful discussion about the motivations of players on my men's soccer team during a challenging game:

1. I play to win!
2. I play because I love soccer.

DylanO
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snippee:

I recognize rhetorical analysis terms here. Are you a teacher, a former debator, or student of persuasive speech?

I'm an English teacher in PNW.

Just curious and hoping this discussion morphs into something of more value.

DylanO
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I see examples of leading questions, from ignorance, appeal to popularity, hasty generalization, fallacy of exclusion and...false dichotomy.
I'm afraid I don't know half of those.
But if you don't think my explanation for why it's amusing is logically sound, that's fine. I'm just trying (and apparently failing) at explaining why it's amusing. Of course I don't think something has to have a truly logically sound basis for it to be amusing.
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90% of the time when someone "gives" something to Goodwill it is not because they think of Goodwill as a great charity - it's because they want to get rid of stuff from their house/garage/apartment/storage/whatever.

At this moment I have a large box of maternity clothes sitting in the back of my car. Youngest DD was born 2 months ago and she is very likely our last. These clothes saw me through 2 pregnancies and include shorts, jeans, sweaters, cotton shirts, a swimsuit, etc. Considering that I didn't wear them until 5-ish months pregnant and had enough that each garment rotated into wear once every couple of weeks, I consider them gently used and very much in good shape with some life left in them.

I would love for these to go to directly someone in need - a women's shelter or home for single mothers or such. I'm having trouble finding someone who a) wants them, b) is a charitable organization (yes, I selfishly want a tax write-off for them), and c) is worth the drive and hassle to deliver during particular hours or far away.

There is a Goodwill less than 1.5 miles from home that I drive by almost daily. There is another about 3 miles away from home that I drive by at least weekly. Very soon, I imagine I'll be leaving the box at one of those two stores since it's so very convenient. True, the items won't go directly to someone in need - they will be sold to someone else in my community who will get a great deal and Goodwill will get some $ to "provide employment and training opportunities for people who wish to improve their lives" (per the GCF website.) I know some of the employees at my local store are mentally handicapped and are able to receive jobs/training they might not otherwise.

Wherever the clothes end up, I'll feel good about it and will happily take my donation receipt for tax purposes.

Just a data point to add to the discussion...
sjfans
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90% of the time when someone "gives" something to Goodwill it is not because they think of Goodwill as a great charity - it's because they want to get rid of stuff from their house/garage/apartment/storage/whatever.

I'm part of that 90%. My current favorite charity for donating used clothing is Volunteers of America, but it's the same idea. However, it's really a very small part of my charitable deductions; I think it came out at an all-time high for me of ~$160 in 2012, because I lost a lot of weight and had a lot of clothes that I would have still worn if they fit.

I'm perhaps not as altruistic as some others on this thread. I regard the tax deduction as compensation for the hassle of getting something that's still usable back into the economy where someone can make use of it, instead of doing the much easier thing of putting it in the trash. The political correctness of helping the needy or preserving landfill capacity is secondary to me.

OTOH, I have put broken lawnmowers and dehumidifiers out to the curb for the trash. I try to put them out early, when there's daylight left, because they disappear before the trash collector comes. *Somebody* is getting some value out of them, perhaps fixing them up and selling for a profit. I'm fine with that, and I don't care that I don't get a tax deduction for it.

Patzer
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