No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop

What’s left?  How about really big stuff, like cars!

You hear it on the radio all the time.  Various charities trying to outdo one another in the attempt to get you to let them have your old car.  How does that work, anyway?  Is it really worthwhile?

I can’t speak to the value to the individual organization. Are they really turning clunkers into cash? Or is it just some kind of keep busy activity for a certain segment of their population? Once again, I’m not a sociologist, and I’m not worried about it. As long as your paperwork is in order, you don’t have to worry about it, either.  Keep reading!

For vehicles (cars, boats, planes, etc.), the deduction is limited to the greater of $500 or the sale price of your vehicle by the charity, regardless of the Blue Book value.  However, if you donate your car to an organization that keeps it for use, you can use the Blue Book value.  Either way, the organization is expected to provide you with Form 1098-C within 30 days to help you with your reporting requirements.

For those amazingly big items worth $5000 or more, like works of art, Form 8382 has a whole separate page for you.  Before you make the donation, make sure you get an appraisal; the appraiser may need to sign the tax form, as well.  You should also talk with your chosen charity to make sure they are also willing to sign the Form.  And then, you, too, should sign.  Yes:  3 signatures on 1 page.  Then you will probably have to entrust your tax filing with all those wet signatures to the USPS.  That is, no e-filing.  This is because the IRS will feel a need to confirm your numbers.  Think about it:  anything over $5000 is a big tax break.

So what does this all mean?

In a recent global survey (sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) of the most generous countries, the USA was tied for 3rd place with Switzerland for a World Giving Index score of 55%.  (Australia and New Zealand tied for 1st place at 57%, while Ireland and Canada tied for 2nd place with 56%. Click here for more details.

And why, anyway, do people give in the first place?  Is the tax break really all that exciting?  There are so many reasons!  Maybe some desperate cause tugs at their heart strings.  Maybe they suffer from a sense of personal unworthiness, and so give everything away.  Some people actually want their name on a plaque, or a round of applause, while others want the enticing thank you gift.

Then there’s the other extreme.  One of my favorite senior citizens had a hard time letting me put anything on line 19 because she felt the fact that she’d get a tax break would diminish her gift.  I explained my opinion.  Jesus admonished us to “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” (Matthew 20:21), and if Caesar is going to give us a break for charity, there’s no reason not to take it.  Not that everybody is on board with the New Testament, but she got the point, and I hope you do, too.

If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. – Bob Hope

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. – Amy Carmichael