Contributing to charity is a heartening way for Nesties to improve the lives of the less fortunate. The Internal Revenue Service rewards taxpayers who donate money or items to a charity by granting a tax deduction. You can deduct the cost of items that you donate and all expenses incurred while volunteering. But the IRS imposes a limit on how much you can claim on your income taxes, which can't exceed 30 percent of your adjusted gross income. The IRS requires that you keep adequate records of your contributions, and expects you to obtain receipts from the organizations you donate to.
When you donate cash to a charitable organization, you have to keep a record of each donation. This record must include the donation amount and the date that you made the donation. Canceled checks or bank statements are sufficient proof. If your employer withholds the donations from your paycheck, keep your paystubs as evidence. If the amount of your gift to any one charity is more than $250, you must obtain a statement from the charity as proof of your donation.
Each time you donate an item, you must obtain a receipt from the charity. If an item is worth less than $250, the receipt must contain only the name of the charity, date of donation and a description of the item. If you donate an item worth more than $250, the receipt must also contain the fair market value of the item. If you give multiple items that are worth more than $250, you must get either one receipt for each item or one receipt that shows all the required information for each item.
Some of the expenses you incur while volunteering at a charitable organization are also deductible on your income taxes. Although you can't claim the value of your time spent performing the volunteer work or child care costs, you can deduct the cost of travel, uniforms, cleaning products, construction materials and any other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the services you perform for the organization. To claim these out-of-pocket expenses, you must keep all of your receipts.
At the end of the year, refer to your receipts and arrange an itemized list to give to your income tax preparer. This list should contain the name of each charity, value and description of each item, and date of donations. If you incurred expenses while performing volunteer work, include the expense's description, date and amount. The list will make it easier for your tax preparer to claim your charitable contribution deduction. In the event of an audit, you must show your receipts to the IRS as proof of the expense or donation, so always save your receipts. You are not required to present each receipt to your tax preparer if you make an itemized list.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.