Spring Cleaning: Your Household Goods, Your Tax Deductions

May 07, 2013 : Jenna Bromberg

It’s Spring Cleaning time, and you’ve got plenty of old clothing, a vacuum, an old television and your last washer & dryer collecting dust in your basement. Preparing to clear some of that clutter? Don’t just throw away your unwanted items. You can (and should) donate them — and be sure you understand the tax implications.

If I donate some of my unwanted household items (clothing, electronics, appliances, etc) to charity, is my donation tax deductible?

Yes, the smaller of what you paid or the fair market value of the donation is deductible if you itemize and get a receipt from the organization.

Does it matter which charitable organization I choose to donate these things to?

Yes, you can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization, and most will be able to tell you. Or go to IRS.gov and search the Exempt Organizations Select Check. This online tool will enable you to search for organizations eligible to receive deductible charitable contributions. You can also call the IRS to find out if an organization is qualified.

I plan to donate some of my old electronics, clothing and various household goods. How do I know what can I deduct?

To make sure your donation is tax-deductible if you itemize, donate your goods in good used condition or better to a qualifying charitable organization. Your donation is the fair market value of the item. The Salvation Army’s guide will help you value the items. For any contribution totaling $250 or more (including contributions of cash or property), you must also obtain and keep additional records from the charity. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must also complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.

Is there a limit on the tax deduction based on my income?

If your total qualifying contributions for the year are 20% or less of your adjusted gross income, you won’t be limited in your tax deductions. If you are, however, a big giver, you may have a limit on your total charitable deduction for the current year. The amount of the limit is depends on your adjusted gross income (computed without regard to any net operating loss carryback), and the type of organization.

Contributions of cash and noncapital gain property (such as household goods and clothing) to 50% charities cannot exceed 50% of your adjusted gross income. 50% charities include schools, churches, hospitals, government entities, and other nonprofit organizations for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes.

There is also a 20% and 30% adjusted gross income limitation for certain other contributions and to non 50% charities, such as veterans organizations, fraternal societies, non-profit cemeteries, and certain private non-operating foundations.

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Jenna Bromberg

Jenna Bromberg

Past Contributor

Jenna helped manage the national social media programs at Houlihan's Restaurants, Inc. and was a copywriter for all three brands in the HRI family before joining H&R Block.