published Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Season for giving: Charities see jump as donors rush to meet tax deadlines

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    Clarke Gallaher picks up bags of donated toys and goods from the back of his trunk to drop off at the Salvation Army center Wednesday. The location is extending its donation hours after a near 50 percent jump in assistance requests over Christmas.
    Photo by Jenna Walker.
    enlarge photo

Jack Hill wants to give away all his stuff before he dies.

He's not planning on going any time soon, but he's getting older and he doesn't expect his kids would take proper care of his belongings.

"When I die, they wouldn't take it here," he said, unloading one of many truckloads of donations at the Ringgold Road Salvation Army. "They'd throw it in the Dumpster."

CHARITY TAX TIPS

* Always get a receipt. Any gift of $250 or more requires written acknowledgment from the charity, even if made by check.

* Keep a detailed list of donated property to assess the value of donations. Organizations such as Goodwill provide lists of values for commonly donated items.

* Make sure any donations made by credit card clear and checks are mailed or delivered before Dec. 31 to count toward your 2011 tax return.

* Appreciated property can be a particularly cost-effective donation. For example, a gifted $1,100 security originally purchased for $1,000 would count as a $1,100 donation.

* Consider consulting a tax adviser when gifting a significant amount to maximize benefits and avoid legal complications.

Source: Henderson, Hutcherson & McCullough

Hill is one of many donors giving during the year-end rush charities such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill see every year. Whether givers are caught up in the holiday spirit or trying to cram in a last-minute tax-deductible donation, several local charities are seeing a bump in giving.

So far this season, donations to the Chattanooga Salvation Army are up nearly 50 percent over two years ago as thousands of supporters contribute to the charity. To help donors give, the charity will keep its centers open until 9 p.m. tonight and midnight Friday and Saturday.

Tax professionals recommend donors collect a receipt on gifts. Taxpayers must produce a receipt to write off giving above $250, and it's not a bad idea for those making smaller donations to grab one to provide clear documentation.

Even with tax breaks, benefits don't outweigh the overall cost to taxpayers. For example, a married couple making $50,000 a year would save about $15 in taxes for every $100 they donate.

"That's part of the reward for making donations, but people need to keep in mind there's nothing as high as a 100 percent tax bracket," said Carl Henderson of local accounting firm Henderson, Hutcherson & McCullough. "You are really giving up something of value."

Several local charity leaders said their donations are up this year.

"I've been floored by the number of gifts we receive every day," said Holly Ashley, director of development for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.

Her organization's donations are about $10,000 ahead of where they hoped to be, she said.

The Salvation Army, Goodwill and other local charities said they aren't bringing in as much money as they would like, but are ahead of past years.

Clarke Gallaher was dropping off toys and clothes with his wife and two daughters Wednesday afternoon. He said around tax season his accountant always badgers him about grabbing a receipt, but it was the 7-year-olds who were the forces behind the giving.

"They were more ready to give than anybody," he said. "The girls said Santa had brought them enough."

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