Nov 30 2010

People’s Marketplace – 11/30/10

People's Marketplace | Published 30 Nov 2010, 10:52 am | Comments Off on People’s Marketplace – 11/30/10 -

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People's MarketplaceWhile pundits and economists worry about Wall Street’s well-being, Americans worry about losing their jobs, paying their bills and the health of the planet. The capitalist marketplace promotes the exploitation of people and natural resources as cheap fixes. But you don’t have to abandon your values to save a buck. Welcome to the People’s Marketplace.

Someone once said, “Give and ye shall receive”. Metaphysical debates aside, this is certainly true when it comes to charitable giving and your taxes. The IRS classifies most not-for-profits – like churches, homeless shelters, and your favorite public radio station – as charitable organizations, and your donations as tax deductible. There are lots of ifs, ands, and buts when it comes to taxes, but, in short, to quantify your altruism you’ll need to itemize your federal tax return, be honest, and keep records.

All cash contributions, no matter how small, should have paper trail. If you tithe a tenner every week at church, forgo the nobility of anonymity and write a check, or ask for a receipt. Start making a list of your good-deed spending and you may find you are sitting on small jackpot of tax write-offs. For example, if you are a member of a non-profit museum or your college’s alumnae association, you may be able to deduct the fee. Go to the IRS website at irs.gov and check out the article “Ten Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions” for an easy overview of the rules. Or for lots of detail, see IRS publications 526 and 561.

Another great way give and get a little back is to donate an old vehicle to your favorite non-profit. This is especially handy when it comes time to retire grandma’s old Buick. Aside from the write-off, the clunker will be towed off the driveway for free. Predictably the IRS says get a receipt from the receiving organization, and when estimating the vehicle’s value, aim low. To find the fair market value of used cars there are two trusted companies, Edmunds at edmunds.com and the Kelly Blue Book’s online home at kbb.com. If you are valuing it at over $500, you’ll need to know how much the non-profit organization got for it at auction, because that’s your price ceiling.

Finally, if you donate your time and talents and, say, paint the kitchen at the homeless shelter, you can’t deduct your hourly rate, but you can deduct the cost of any unreimbursed materials. And, when you regularly use your car in the pursuit of good works, like picking-up juice and bagels for the weekly girl-scout meeting, you can claim your miles and get about 14 cents back for each one.

So, indulge your bleeding heart and fulfill your frugal fantasies. Give big before the year’s end and write-it-off in April. Try it, and stretch your dollar to meet your values.

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