Many big-hearted Americans are concerned for their fellow Americans’ wellbeing in the face of superstorm Sandy’s onslaught on the Eastern seaboard. As a result, people have been making donations to various charities that channel the money into helping those whose homes and livelihoods have been devastated by Sandy. This has brought up the worst of human nature in using this disaster to scam charitable people and steal their donations. The IRS and BBB have a word of advice for you if you desire to make donations towards this worthy cause.
It is important to do some homework before making any donation. In an email, IRS spokesman Mark Hanson wrote, “Before donating to any charity, taxpayers may want to do some research to ensure an organization is legitimate. Unfortunately, scam artists may see this natural disaster as an opportunity to prey upon unsuspecting, generous people.”
So before making your donation, you should do a search on the tax-exempt status of the organization you wish to donate to. Do so by visiting the IRS’ online database, Exempt Organization Select Check at go.usa.gov/YwZw. Alternatively, you can also refer to the BBB’s database of such organizations at www.bbb.org/charity. If the organization is a legitimate tax-exempt organization that has launched an initiative to help victims of superstorm Sandy, you may safely make your donation.
Once you have made your charitable donation, you should maintain a record of your giving by keeping the official receipt and any letter of acknowledgement from the charity organization. This will help you make a tax deduction on your giving when tax season rolls in. The IRS offers tips on how to claim charitable contributions on your tax return — see Form 8283, Publication 526: Charitable Contributions and Publication 561: Determining the Value of Donated Property. These forms can be obtained at the IRS website, www.irs.gov or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
If you wish to make a donation online, the two best places to go to would be the American Red Cross society at www.redcross.org (or you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS) and the Salvation Army at salvationarmyusa.org (or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY).