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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Are Donations to Animal Rescue Shelters Tax Deductible?

Like with many other nonprofits or charities, if you make a donation, you can typically deduct the value of your contribution from your annual tax bill.

To do so, the nonprofit group you’re giving to must be officially recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You can check an organization’s tax-exempt status by searching the IRS Exempt Organization Select Check.

When you’re filing, you will also need to itemize the amount of your donation - this may not be worth the extra effort if you only gave a little here and there. But if you gave a significant amount throughout the year, it is best to itemize the deduction on your personal tax return.

Here are few things to consider when donating to an animal rescue shelter:

Pet Adoption vs. Donation
A common misconception most people make is thinking that payment for adopting from an animal shelter is the same as making a donation. Only donations in which the donor receives no goods or services in return can count towards a deduction.

In this case, you’re giving money in exchange for your pet - that's more of a service charge rather than a charitable contribution. However, if you paid over the cost of adoption or gave a gift outside of the adoption transaction, that counts as a valid charitable contribution.

Donation Value
If you’re donating items, you’ll need to estimate the fair market value for each of those items. There’s no one particular method for finding fair market values - you can look through local shops or online stores to figure out prices of similar items in the open market. For special unique gifts, such as a hand-woven, nap basket for kittens, you can get it appraised for the market value.

Written Proof of Donation
When you’re donating to an official 501(c)(3) organization, it’s common practice to receive a physical receipt for your donation. If your total contribution amount is at least $250, the IRS requires you to submit proper documentation along with your tax return. Like other receipts from nonprofits or charities, it should contain the description of the contribution and the amount along with the name and address of the organization.

If you received a gift or benefit from the animal shelter in return for your donation, include a description of the gift on the written receipt. Any reciprocated gifts with a monetary value should be subtracted from the amount of your contribution when reporting. A paper certificate or “Thank You” card typically don’t have cash values, but a coupon or gift card does.

Animal rescue shelters can report received contributions over $5,000 to the IRS by using a Schedule B along with their Form 990 or 990-EZ tax return. Taxpayers that want to claim an itemized deduction for their donations to an animal shelter can complete a Schedule A with their IRS 1040 form.


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