Feeling the holiday spirit? Consider donating to charity, and you'll end up giving the best kind of present — one that benefits you, too.
The IRS has a special tax rule right now that allows Americans to deduct certain charitable donations on their 2021 taxes, lowering their tax liability and translating into savings. Single filers can deduct up to $300; married couples that file jointly can deduct up to $600. Crucially, you don't even have to itemize your taxes to claim it.
However, you do have to move fast. The deadline for making an eligible donation is Dec. 31.
Usually, the roughly 90% of households that take the standard deduction aren't able to deduct charitable contributions when they do their income taxes. But the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March 2020, loosened those restrictions in light of COVID-19 crisis. The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act, passed in December 2020, then extended the provision through 2021.
"The pandemic has created unique challenges for tax-exempt organizations, and we want to make sure people don't overlook this special tax deduction that's available this year," the IRS's Sunita Lough said in a recent news release. "Donations to qualifying charities can reduce people's tax bill when they file in 2022."
To be eligible, donations have to be made in cash or via check, credit card or debit card. (The IRS says "amounts incurred by an individual for unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses in connection with their volunteer services to a qualifying charitable organization" count, as well.)
Recipients must be tax-exempt charitable organizations, not supporting groups, donor-advised funds or private foundations. Check to make sure your charity of choice is eligible — and not a scam — by checking the IRS database.
One final note of warning: If you take advantage of this limited-time-only deduction, keep proof. Hang on to your receipts and any letters of acknowledgment you receive just in case the IRS later asks you to substantiate your claims.