If Hurricane Sandy inspired you to roll up your sleeves or open your wallet, you may be entitled to a tax deduction this year. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, donations and help poured in from around the country.
"Many, many individuals during this time wanted to do as much as they could and give as much as they could," says Alan Kahn, a certified public accountant.
While those who pitched in probably were not looking for anything in return, the truth is they may be entitled to get a little something back from the government. Charitable contributions may be tax-deductible, provided they meet a few rules.
Donated goods, new and used, that came in by the truckload can be claimed as deductions.
"All of the items that you contribute, whether they are clothing, whether they are food, all of those items are all tax deductible," Kahn says.
The key is to be able to produce a receipt either from the organization that received the donation or from the store where the donor purchased new items, like diapers or cleaning supplies.
In the case of used clothing or furniture, donors can only deduct the fair-market value.
Those who gave their time and energy may also benefit, but professional electricians or carpenters who volunteered cannot deduct their services.
"Unfortunately your time, the fair-market value of your hourly rate that you would obtain during employment, is not tax-deductible," Kahn says.
However, anyone who dropped off goods or food or traveled to a site to lend a hand can deduct the cost of their trip, MetroCards or mileage, plus any bridge tolls along the way.
Monetary donations may be deductible as well. But regardless of the cause, before potential donors text a $10 contribution or click a link on Facebook, they should do some research and make sure to choose the charity wisely.
"Check what part of your contribution or donation is going for administrative expenses. that's also very, very important. If 60 or 70 percent of your money is going toward administration, that might not be the charity you want," says Kahn.
In order to claim a charitable deduction, a taxpayer must itemize, and most importantly, the organization in question has to qualify as a non-profit under section 501(c)(3). To find out if a charity qualifies, use the search tool provided at IRS.gov.