3 Steps to Donate Your Vehicle to Veterans’ Organizations
Ever wondered if you could donate your vehicle to a veterans' charity organization? Donating your vehicle to a veterans’ charity can be a valuable and relatively easy way to give back to U.S. service members and their families. Most charitable organizations depend directly on the support of the public to continue their services to veterans, and donating a vehicle that you no longer need or use allows you to help without having to spend money out of pocket. And since many organizations will pick up your vehicle at no cost – even if it does not run – it’s an easy way to remove a vehicle you think you might have difficulty selling. It can be a real win-win situation, and four simple steps can turn your car, truck, or RV into a charitable donation.
- Research the Charity
With a wide range of local and national charity organizations, it may be a bit daunting to know how to pick the best destination for your donation. You may feel a particular connection to veterans of a certain conflict – like Vietnam or Korea – or you may feel drawn to helping veterans facing certain challenges, like service-related disabilities or PTSD. You may simply want to direct your donation towards a well-established organization that helps thousands, or a local group you see directly impacting your community.
In any case, today there are online tools that are very useful in finding the most reputable charities. Watchdog sites like charitynavigator.org and charitywatch.org rate charities based on a variety of factors, including availability of financial records, accountability standards, transparency, lack or presence of recent controversies, and more. You can search through the database and its scoring to make an informed decision.
If it is a local charity not included, you can contact the charity directly and nd talk with them about their mission, their operating procedures and financial practices, their board of directors, and their recent successes and progress. These types of questions can help ensure your donation is going to truly make a positive impact on the cause you care about.
If you plan on using your donation for a tax deduction, you’ll want to be sure that the charity is qualified by the IRD as a 501(c)(3) organization. You can do so by using the EO Select Check tool on the IRS website. You may also verify an organization’s status by calling the toll free IRS Customer Account Services division for Tax Exempt and Government Entities at (877) 829-5500. Be sure to have the charity’s correct name and the charity’s address.
- Determine the Value of Your Vehicle
This step is especially important if you plan on using your vehicle donation as a tax deduction. There are some specific guidelines set out by the IRS on how much you can actually claim for your donation. If the charity auctions off the vehicle and keeps the proceeds as your donation (a very common occurrence), you can only claim the proceeds that the charity takes home from the auction, regardless of the fair market value of your vehicle. However, if the charity keeps the vehicle for use, you will most likely be able to claim the full fair market value (minus any repairs that the charity had to make to put it in use).
One simple way to establish the fair market value of your car is to use a pricing guide like Kelley Blue Book. You simply enter the pertinent information like make, model, year, mileage, and condition, to see suggested pricing. Be sure to be honest about choosing the accurate condition of your vehicle, then use the “private party sale” option as your guideline, as fair market value cannot exceed the price listed for a private-party sale. It’s always advisable to consult with a tax expert on the process for donating a vehicle so you can get an accurate expectation of the amount you may truly be able to deduct.
- Contact The Charity
Now comes the easy part! Contact the charity you have chosen and tell them that you would like to make a vehicle donation. Some organizations, such as Vehicles for Veterans, are established specifically to utilize vehicle donations from the public, and may be a good choice if you don’t have a specific choice in mind. They accept cars and trucks, as well as RVs, campers, and ATVs, and will schedule a free vehicle pickup, handle the paperwork, and give you your tax receipt.
For other organizations not specifically focused on vehicles, you may need to discuss more of the details about how and when to get them the vehicle, and ensure that you receive all the documentation you need for your taxes. If at all possible, try to get the vehicle to the charity yourself, to ensure that they do not have to spend any resources (potentially taken from donated funds) to acquire the vehicle. Some may have existing agreements in place with local auction houses where they auction donated vehicles, keeping the proceeds as the donation.
- Get your tax receipt.Again, this is another good chance to leverage your tax professional to ensure you have all your needed documentation in the right timeframe. For example, if the value of your vehicle donation (whether from the auction proceeds or in a fair market value) is greater than $500, you need to obtain written acknowledgment from the charity within 30 days of the vehicle’s sale or from the time of your donation to the charity. If the value is less than $500, you generally have until your time of tax filing, but it’s not advisable to wait; details and information can get lost over months in a busy charity organization. The online IRS Guidelines for Vehicle Donations can help ensure that you have all the forms and paperwork needed to make a deduction come tax time.
Donating your unwanted vehicle to a worthy charity is a simple way to ensure that good comes out of an item no longer needed or in use. Choosing to donate can make a hug impact in the lives of numerous veterans, and offers you a chance to show your gratitude to those who have given so much to our nation.