If you have appliances that you're not using in your house, you may be tempted to donate them to charity. Some charities even have free furniture removal programs that can help you get rid of bulky items, including appliances. If you donate appliances to charity, you'll probably wonder how to claim them as tax deductions.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
According to the IRS, you can generally deduct the fair market value for donating appliances if they're in good used condition.
Tax Ramifications for Donating Appliances
For household items such as electronics, appliances, linens and furniture, you can only claim a deduction if the items are considered to be in good used condition. Often this will match with charities' own decisions about what they will accept, but they will generally want appliances that are not broken and are in usable condition.
You are generally allowed to deduct the fair market value of used household items. You can determine this through online research, by seeing the price for which comparable items sell or with statements from the charity about how much the items are worth.
The IRS advises you to hold on to evidence like such statements, as well as photos of the items and receipts from when you purchased the items in order to substantiate what you say the items are worth. As with any donation, you should obtain and keep a receipt with as much specific information as possible from the charity to which you give the items in case the IRS asks any questions. Usually, the fair market value is less than what the item was worth when it was new.
You can only claim charitable donations up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income, and you can only claim such donations as deductions if you itemize. If you would get more by taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing, then there's no point in claiming your charitable donations.
Exceptions for Items Appraised Over $500
If you donate an item that's worth more than $500 and you include a qualified appraisal with your tax return, you can claim the item even if it's not in good used condition or better. That can be useful if you're donating an item with intrinsic value, such as something that contains valuable metals, or a collectible item, like an antique stove. It generally won't apply if you simply want to donate a washer and dryer you aren't using.
Ramifications of 2018 Tax Law Changes
As of the tax year 2018, the standard deduction for an individual is rising to $12,000, and for married couples filing jointly, it's rising to $24,000. If you would be claiming less than this in total itemized deductions, then it doesn't make sense to itemize, and you can skip valuing and keeping track of individual donations.
2017 Tax Law
Under the 2017 tax law, the same general logic applies, although the standard deductions are $6,350 for single taxpayers and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly.
- IRS: Substantiating Charitable Contributions
- IRS: Publication 526 (2017), Charitable Contributions
- Nolo: How to Value Noncash Charitable Contributions
- Forbes: IRS Announces 2017 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts And More
- Forbes: New: IRS Announces 2018 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts And More
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.