How do I Donate Clothes to Charity for a Tax Deduction?

Used clothes must be in "good used" or better condition to qualify for a deduction.

Used clothes must be in "good used" or better condition to qualify for a deduction.

Whether you want to de-clutter your closet or help ensure that a few more people stay warm during the winter, Uncle Sam rewards your clothing donations with a deduction on your income taxes. However, to qualify, you must give the clothing to a qualified charity and usually get documentation of your good deed.

Pick a Qualifying Charity

Only clothing donated to a qualified charity can be used as a deduction on your income taxes. If you donate it to a needy individual you're not allowed to claim a write-off, even if the recipient isn't related to you or you don't even know him. If you're unsure of whether an organization qualifies, the Internal Revenue Service recommends calling the agency or using the "Exempt Organizations Select Tool" on its website.

Get a Receipt

You should get a receipt from the charity you give the clothing to so you can substantiate your deduction with the IRS. The receipt should show what you gave, when you gave it and the charity that received the donation. The only time you're not required to get a receipt for your clothing donation is when you donate less than $250 of clothing and it's impractical to get one, such as if you put it in a donation drop bin without an attendant.

Valuing Your Donation

Only clothing that's in "good used condition" or better can be deducted on your taxes. There is only one exception to this rule. According to the IRS website, you can take a deduction for an item of clothing that is not in good used condition or better "if you deduct more than $500 for it and in­clude a qualified appraisal of it with your return." To get a dollar figure for your clothing, you must estimate its fair market value, which the IRS defines as the price a willing buyer would agree to pay a willing seller for the item. This is typically much lower than the price the item would cost new. In some cases you can value a piece of clothing by finding out how much similar items sell for in consignment stores or thrift shops.

Reporting Your Deduction

You report your donation deduction on line 17 of Schedule A -- the form used to report all of your itemized deductions. If you have other non-cash donations, such as donated food or supplies, those get combined with your clothing donation and the total goes on line 17. The downside to claiming charitable donations, or any other itemized deduction, is that you lose your standard deduction. Once you've totaled your itemized deductions for the year, the sum replaces your standard deduction on line 40 of Form 1040.

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