Whenever you donate items to a charity (church, thrift store, etc.), ALWAYS ask for a receipt. Once you have the receipt in hand, file it in a “Tax Documents” folder for the current year (if you haven’t set up a file folder yet, now is a good time!). In the event of an audit, you may be asked to prove the donation.
If you donated items to charity valued at $500 or more, you will need to report the donation on an IRS Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions), which will require a little more detail. You will need to report the name and address of the recipient charity, as well as the Federal ID number. Not all charities list their tax ID number on their receipt– you may have to call and ask for it. Don’t wait until tax time to track down that information, as it could delay your tax preparation!
If you donated a vehicle or a boat to a charity, make sure you ask the charity to provide you with a Form 1098-C. Determining the vehicle donation deduction amount entirely depends on how the charity used the vehicle. If the charity sold the vehicle, then you are only allowed a deduction for the sale price (which may be a lot lower than your fair market value!). If the charity is keeping the vehicle for its own use, then you are allowed to deduct the vehicle’s fair market value.
If you incurred unreimbursed expenses in the line of volunteering for a charity, you can deduct those expenses as cash contributions. Just make sure you keep receipts of those expenses. If you donated $250 or more to any one charity, make sure you get a receipt for the donation, as a cancelled check will not suffice as documentation for the IRS.