Useful Tools & Tips For Your Year-End Charitable Giving

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The end of the calendar year is also the end of your chance to donate money or items to charitable causes - if you’d like to deduct them from the taxes you’ll file in 2015.

With that in mind, Lake Effect's Mitch Teich spoke with our personal finance contributor, Janet Marie Tierney about charitable giving. Tierney is a volunteer financial educator and a Senior Business analyst at Fiserv.

  • The Internal Revenue Service website offers free tools to accomplish as much as TurboTax can. For your specific tax deductions, use the program Its Deductible.
  •  What is deductible? Monetary gifts to non-profits, mileage used to drive to volunteer at non-profits, and partial-value deductions for in-kind donations. Remember to save the original invoice(s).
  • Keep an itemized list of what you have donated including items, where they were donated to, date of donation, estimated value and take a picture of all donated items for your records
  • Determine if the non-profit of your choice is qualified as a 501(c)(3) organization before you donate. Visit the charity's website or call to confirm if they are eligible for deductible contributions.

  • Rely upon personal recommendations when deciding on which charity to donate to. Don't judge a non-profit the way you would a company. They are looking to raise money, not spend it with marketing materials, so look at what they are doing in your community.
  • Guidestar.org can help you decide which organization to donate to. It rates non-profits, annual reports and person-to-person information.
  •  Check if your employer offers matching gifts and also look into corporate or bank sponsored events.
  • Charity Miles app allows users to earn up to 25 cents a mile for running. This application is corporate sponsored, so there is no out of pocket cost.