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The Better Business Bureau offers general advice to people who want to make vehicle donations:
* Do research and ask professionals for help.
* Seek legal and financial advice before you donate your car. Does it make financial sense to donate your vehicle? Is the charity able to meet your giving needs?
* Get the charity's annual report and read it. Find out how the charity managed its budget in the last fiscal year, including how it spent income from vehicle donations.
* Ask the charity how it uses donated vehicles. Does it resell them at wholesale prices? Or does it refurbish the vehicles for disadvantaged families that need transportation?
* Get receipts. Make sure the receipt has the registered charity's identification number on it.
* Check with your state Attorney General's Office to make sure the charity is registered as a 501(c)3.
* Contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if it has information on file about the charity and its vehicle donations.
Most cars, trucks, vans, trailers, boats, RVs, and even airplanes are items that can be donated. In most cases, these vehicles need not even be operational to be of value to a charitable organization. Be aware that some farm equipment and commercial vehicles may not be accepted by some charities or vehicle donation programs, or may be subject to different IRS rules and guidelines.
The sky is the limit for donating vehicles to charity. Search the Internet, and you will find more than 50,000 listings soliciting car donations and other vehicle donations. With the popularity of these programs, it is common for charities to accept most any kind of vehicle, in any condition. There are charities that accept cars, campers, RVs, boats, planes, motorcycles, trucks, even autos that don't run.
For road vehicles, most charities require inflated tires so the vehicles can be towed away. The charities won't use most of these vehicle donations in their day-to-day charitable works. Instead they will sell the vehicles, usually at large auto auctions, and use the proceeds to support their causes.
Getting a tax deduction for vehicle donations requires the donor to be organized and to keep good records. Make sure the charity receiving the vehicle is registered as a 501(c)3. Otheriwse you cannot get the tax write-off.
You also will need receipts from the charity. The first receipt is for the transfer of the vehicle. The receipt will include the charity's name and identification number. The second receipt is for the resale of the vehicle if it is more than $500. The receipt is provided by the charity after it sells the vehicle.
If it plans to keep a vehicle worth more than $500, it needs to provide you with a written statement on how it will use the vehicle in its work.
Before you donate your vehicle it is not a bad idea to remove the license plate, unless state law prohibits it. This will help you avoid liability problems.
So you've decided to donate your vehicle to charity, but don't know how to start. Don't worry. You won't have trouble finding a charity, but it may be a challenge deciding which one to use.
Search online and you'll find thousands of charities offering to take your used vehicles to benefit their causes. To simplify your search decide which cause you want to help. AIDS prevention? Animal rescue? Cancer research?
Then look for an established charity in your community. Make sure it is registered as a 501(c)3. Some organizations have tried to pass themselves off as charities for vehicle donations. If you have questions, contact the consumer division of your state's Attorney General's Office. The AG should have a list of all registered charities in your state.
While the IRS's guidelines are quite straightforward on how to value vehicle donations made directly to charities or through vehicle donation services, individual charities and services may have limitations on what you can donate. Most vehicle donation programs have a set of charities to which the proceeds of cars donated through them will be directed. If you have a particular charity to which you wish to donate, you can check with that charity to find out with which service they have an agreement. Some vehicle donation programs only solicit and accept certain kinds of vehicles, or have stipulations about the conditions of the vehicle. If you have a non-operational vehicle, look for a vehicle donation service that will take vehicles in any condition. Be aware that you might have to make some trade-offs, if you have a non-working vehicle and want it to go to a specific charity. Nevertheless, you will find a reputable service to help you make your vehicle donation.
Just about every town in the United States has access to vehicle donation programs. The best way to learn about ones near you is to check with your local United Way, or look on the Internet, where there are dozens of solicitations for vehicle donations to benefit charities.
Some organizations may not be based in your community but have a national outreach and a 1-800 number. These organizations will send a driver or tow truck to your house to collect the vehicle.
Other charities have dropoff locations at sites across a state or states. The charity will give you specific instructions for dropping off the vehicle and transferring the title. If the vehicle is inoperable, many charities offer free towing services.
Vehicle donations are such a critical source of revenue for charities that just about every major organization solicits them.
Charities with vehicle donation programs range from the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Humane Society of the United States. Sometimes churches will accept car donations and other vehicle donations, as will public TV and radio stations.
Identify you favorite charity and find out if you can donate your vehicle. Often your local United Way can help. Some smaller, community charities may not take vehicle donations, simply because they do not have a program in place to process the vehicles. There also are dozens of fundraising umbrella groups that provide vehicle donation programs for the charities they represent.
With all the choices for charities, it is incumbent on the donor to make sure that the organization is registered in the state where they live. Check with the state Attorney General's Office.
The most frequent ways that Americans give to charities are through volunteering and through donations of used clothing and household items.
Vehicle donations are increasingly popular as well, though many people may not be aware of how the programs work. Typically, Americans can dispose of most any unwanted vehicle -- cars, motorhomes, even motorcycles. At the same time, they can benefit their favorties charities.
Most charities make it is easy and convenient. Vehicle donations also let Americans give while getting something back: a tax write-off.
Charities see the benefits, and have simplified the system for giving. Often donors can find application forms over the Internet to get the process started.
Large charities often will hire fundraisers to collect the cars and resell them for the proceeds. The charities then split the money with the fundraising company. By hiring fundraisers, charities often can collect vehicles from anywhere in the nation. If the vehicle doesn't run, the charity will tow it.
Donors, meanwhile, can use the vehicle donation as a deduction at tax time, as long as they are willing to itemize the gift on their tax forms, and keep records of the transfer, which they will need to copy for the IRS.
Several online groups rate charities. It is not a bad idea to check them out before you donate your vehicle.
The American Institute of Philanthropy and the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau are two examples. These charity watchdog groups review a range of issues and have a mission to help individual become informed givers.
So how can these groups help with car donations and other vehicle donations?
There are scores of groups soliciting people for car donations. It is a challenge to learn which groups are best for you. Watchdog groups can provide background on charities. Some even rate them with letter grades. These groups are but one tool you can use when making vehicle donations. Here is a description of some of the charity watchdog groups:
* Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. The Virginia-based organization reviews how well charity's meet their missions and standards.
* American Institute of Philanthropy. The Chicago nonprofit group rates charities.
* Charity Navigator. This New Jersey nonprofit also rates charities.
* GuideStar. The Williamsburg, VA, nonprofit offers free financial data on charities.
* Wall Watchers. The North Carolina group reviews Christian-affiliated charities.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|