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What Kind of Tax Deduction Can I Take for Donating Clothes?

Bagging up your old clothes to make room in your closet may give you a reason to go shopping, but it also gives you a big deduction on your next tax return. The IRS lets you take the deduction, but only if you donate the clothing to a tax-exempt charitable organization. However, before you start counting the money from your charitable donation deduction, there are a couple of things you should be aware of before donating clothes.

Tax-Exempt Charities

First, you’ll need to find a charitable organization in your area that can offer you a tax deduction for clothing donations. To take the deduction, the charity must have IRS-approved tax-exempt status. The federal government allows only certain types of organizations to obtain tax-exempt status. Generally, these organizations must solely operate to promote charitable, religious, literary, educational, scientific and humanitarian activities. Though some organizations that promote amateur sports competitions can qualify too. A representative from the organization can usually tell you if it qualifies, but when in doubt, you can check IRS Publication 78.

Donated Clothes Inventory

Once you locate a worthy charity to receive your clothing donation, it’s essential that you take inventory of every piece of clothing before dropping off the donation. This is a key step since your deduction is equal to the total value of the clothing. The IRS gives you some discretion when deciding which valuation method is most appropriate. But under no circumstances can you estimate any value for clothing that someone can’t wear. A common way that taxpayers arrive at the value for their donated clothes is by checking the retail prices at local thrift stores.

Proof of Clothing Donation

The IRS doesn’t usually request proof of the clothing donations with your 1040. But it is your responsibility to keep some documentary proof, like a written acknowledgement from each charity you donate to if the value of any article of clothing is $250 or more. In case the IRS audits your tax return or requests receipts, not having them on hand will cause you to lose the tax benefit of your charitable deduction. Written acknowledgements should, at a minimum, provide a description of the donated clothing, the name of the charitable organization and a statement certifying that you did not receive any monetary benefit in exchange for donating clothes. If you do receive a gift or other benefit, it should be indicated on the acknowledgment. Unfortunately, you will need to reduce the amount of your deduction by the value of these gifts and benefits

Itemize Clothing Donations

Lastly, the only way to claim a charitable deduction for donating clothes is to itemize your deductions on Schedule A instead of taking the standard deduction. However, if claiming the standard deduction saves you more in tax, meaning it is more than your total itemized deduction, it’s to your benefit to a forego the clothing donation deduction year.

Reference: IRS Publication 561-Determining the Value of Donated Property