Donation Value Guide for 2020—How Much Is Your Charitable Giving Worth?
The IRS says you must use an item's fair market value
When you have items cluttering up your home that you no longer want or need, it only makes sense to give them to charity. Someone out there can surely use them and the Internal Revenue Service is willing to give you a tax break for your generosity.
The problem is that deducting charitable gifts is one of the more complex labyrinths of tax law. You can always consult with a tax professional, but all this giving isn’t supposed to end up costing you money. We’ve put together these general guidelines to help you along.
Fair Market Value...According to the IRS
The IRS uses “fair market value” for almost all donated items based on their condition at the time the gift is made. This is where it can get tricky. You might think that flat screen TV you replaced with a newer model is in great shape…but is it really?
The IRS defines fair market value as what a consumer would willingly pay for an item if neither the seller nor the buyer was under any duress to make the sale. And both parties must have “reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.” Yes, that’s a bit vague but, unfortunately, there’s no specific formula.
The IRS also imposes a rule that clothing and most household items must be in pretty good shape—in “good used condition or better.” You can probably forget about taking a tax deduction for that television if you have to bang it to get a picture.
Some software programs will help you calculate values, but make sure the version you’re using isn’t out of date.
Don’t expect to deduct anything even close to what you paid for clothing items unless you purchased them in a thrift store a few days before you gave them to a charity. And remember, each article must be in at least good used condition. The IRS implemented this particular rule back in August 2006.
Assuming that your son’s jeans or that top you bought that doesn’t really become you are in nice shape, here’s an idea of the minimums you might expect to claim for some common items in 2019:
- Children’s jeans: $2 to $3.50
- Children's skirts: $1.50
- Women's skirts: $3
- Children's slacks: $2
- Women's slacks: $3.50 to $4
- Men's slacks: $5
- Children's dresses: $2 to 3.50
- Women's dresses: $4 to $6
- Children's sweaters: $2 to $2.50
- Women's sweaters: $3.75 to $4
- Men's sweaters: $2.50 to $4
- Children's boots: $3 to $6
- Women's boots: $2
As a general rule, you can multiply these numbers by 3.5 or 4 to get a rough idea of the best deduction you might claim if an item is practically brand new or at least looks like it. But this isn’t an exact formula.
You might want to take photos of everything before you give items away so you can substantiate your opinion of above-average quality if you claim a higher number.
Top values for appliances tend to vary depending on the type of appliance. Some might be worth twice as much in excellent condition, while others might be valued at four or five times as much. These are the 2019 ranges for some of the most common:
- Air Conditioners: $21 to $93
- Televisions: $78 to $233
- Microwaves: $10 to $50
- Washing Machines: $41 to $156
- Dryers: $47 to $93
- Electric Stoves: $78 to $156
- Gas Stoves: $52 to $130
Televisions must be color models and they must be in working order at the time you donate them.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and you might need the help of an appraiser or other professional for more expensive, high-tech items. But assuming you only want to give away an old DVR or the computer you just replaced, here are some guidelines for 2019:
- Monitor: $5 to $51
- Printer: $5 to $155
- Computer System: $104 to $415
- DVD Player: $8 to $16
Furniture and Household Items
A lot of variables exist in this category, particularly for furniture. Age might not be much of a determinant. What if you’re donating an antique? It might be old, but that hardly makes it worthless. In fact, it's probably increased in value. You’ll almost certainly need an appraisal in this case.
The condition of the piece tends to be far more important, as is style. A type of sofa that was all the rage back in 2005 might have negligible value now, and it’s certainly not an antique yet, either. As for things like linens, they tend to retain very little value after they’ve been used.
Otherwise, you can expect to deduct about this much in 2019:
- Bed/Twin: $35 to $75
- Bed/Full or Larger: $50 to $170
- Bedspread: $3 to $24
- Coffee Table: $15 to $65
- Desk: $25 to $140
- Dresser (with mirror): $20 to $75
- End Table: $10 to $50
- Lamps: $5 to $75
- Rugs: $20 to $90
- Sofa: $35 to $200
- Towels: $0.50 to $4
- Upholstered Chair: $25 to $75
These items all fall under the “good used condition or better” IRS rule. You can still give your loveseat away if your toddler spilled cranberry juice on the cushion, but you won't get a tax deduction for it.
You can’t really take a semi-educated guess as to condition or value when it comes to donating expensive items. You probably won’t find them on any charity’s published list of approximate values, either. Things like jewelry, artwork, paintings, and antiques almost always require appraisals.
The IRS suggests that artwork valued at over $5,000 should be appraised, and you must have the item appraised if it’s worth $20,000 or more. Attach a copy of the appraisal to your tax return.
You can request a Statement of Value from the IRS if you’re donating anything that’s extremely valuable—worth $50,000 or more—but it will cost you $6,500 for one to three items and $300 each for every item over three.
You’ll also have to submit Form 8283 and complete Section B for these items. Technically, Form 8283 must be submitted for all donations valued at over $500, but really pricey gifts over $5,000 require that you fill out Section B of the form as well.
As for aircraft, cars, and boats, the rules here are particularly tricky and you might have a choice of valuation methods depending on what the charity does with the gift. You’ll most likely need the help of a tax professional if you’re going to be this generous.
Is All This Worth the Time and Effort?
Keep in mind that you must itemize your deductions to claim your charitable gifts and contributions. This is usually only worth your while if your total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction for your filing status for the year. You can't both itemize and use the standard deduction as well. For 2019, the standard deduction for single filers is $12,200. It's $24,400 for married taxpayers who file joint returns, and $18,350 for those who qualify as head of household. That's a lot of appliances and kids' jeans.