It is already widely known that the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act means fewer taxpayers will be itemizing deductions on their tax returns early next year. This means that I will not be spending a lot of time over the next month or so talking about last-minute moves one can make to improve your tax picture. For many, those options have been decrease. This also unfortunately means that I will not be steering as many people to make some late-year charitable donations and then enjoy the tax benefit.
Hopefully, most thought of that latter benefit as a corollary bonus and not the main impetus behind making those donations, for they are still needed.
Giving Tuesday just passed this week, and we are in the time of year when donations reach high levels as feelings of goodwill and hopes of peace drive many to help others. It is not the only time we have had those thoughts this year, though, as recovering from traumatic events like hurricanes and wildfires also necessitated leaning on the generosity of others.
And when you look at the amount of money that can be raised for such wonderful and worthy causes, it can be very heartening. So even if there is a larger chance that making such donations may no longer affect your tax picture, I still want to express the hope that it will not affect your inclination to give if you have the ability to do so.
At the same time, though, there are scammers out there trying to take advantage of this goodwill. It seems that every time a disaster comes along, there are stories of fraudulent people and organizations that pop up to collect money and not pass it along to those they were claiming to help. That is only bound to happen in this more general season of giving, too.
Although it may feel bad to question someone who is claiming to be doing a selfless act, it can do you good to implement a little due diligence and look up the credentials of an organization before making a donation. Sure, there are some large charities that we all know about and trust, but many smaller ones are also doing great work. You may support their mission and just not have known they existed.
So just to ensure that you can feel confident about where your money is going, the IRS offers a Tax Exempt Organization Search online. It provides information on an organization’s tax status, allowing you to confirm it is a tax-exempt entity and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. It is an easy check at legitimacy, for if it is a legitimate entity, there is no reason why it would not have formally received tax-exempt status through the agency.
And as always, remember that if something feels fishy, it is worth investigating before you commit to anything. But when things don’t feel fishy, they can instead feel great and wonderful, so please commit to helping there.
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