Donating a vehicle might not provide the tax deduction you expect

Not all charitable donations are created equal. Some provide larger deductions than others, and how much or even what you donate might not necessarily be the most important factors. How the charity uses your donation can also affect your deduction.

Take vehicle donations, for example. If you donate your vehicle, the value of your deduction can vary greatly depending on what the charity does with it.

Determining your deduction

You can deduct the vehicle’s fair market value (FMV) if the charity:

  • uses the vehicle for a significant charitable purpose (such as delivering meals to the elderly)
  • sells the vehicle for substantially less than FMV in furtherance of a charitable purpose (such as a sale to a low-income person needing transportation) or
  • makes “material improvements” to the vehicle

In most other circumstances, if the charity sells the vehicle, your deduction is limited to the amount of the sales proceeds.

Getting proper substantiation

You also must obtain proper substantiation from the charity, including a written acknowledgment that:

  • certifies whether the charity sold the vehicle or retained it for use for a charitable purpose
  • includes your name and tax identification number and the vehicle identification number
  • reports, if applicable, details concerning the sale of the vehicle within 30 days of the sale

This information is generally provided to the donor on Form 1098-C.

For more information on these guidelines and other rules that apply to vehicle donation deductions — or deductions for other charitable gifts — please contact your KraftCPAs advisor.

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