Holiday Car Donation

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The holidays are the time of giving, and just happen to come as many people are looking for tax deductions to slip in before January 1. So how about handing an old vehicle to charity?

It's a perfectly good way to give to charity, and some key steps can ensure you and the charity get the most out of the donation. A tax deduction for a charitable donation could come in handy next April, and could be used for additional giving.

But first, let's be honest. From a purely financial perspective, giving a vehicle away is not the most profitable move. For every $100 in value, you might save $25 in taxes, assuming a 25% tax bracket. If you sold the vehicle, you'd pocket the full $100. (There'd also be no capital gains tax if the vehicle were sold for less than you'd paid.)

And if you intend to buy another vehicle, the old one has turn-in value. That may be a tad less than the value if sold to a private party, but still a good deal more than the value of the tax deduction.

This is why these donations often involve vehicles on their last legs. Many charities will take vehicles that don't even run, as they can be auctioned to parts salvagers. Typically, the charity will pick the vehicle up, making donation an easy way to clear your life of a clunker that wouldn't have much value in a sale or turn-in anyway.

So, if you want to give to charity, why not do it with an old vehicle?, the car-shopping site, says that starting in 2005 donors could no longer simply claim deductions based on fair market value derived from sources such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. Since then, the value claimed is the value realized by the charity, which reports the price to the donor in writing. The change was meant to curb inflated claims. Unfortunately, charities are not likely to hang tough on sale prices, because they don't want to store old vehicles.