One Man’s Trash…

Donating your unusual household treasures

Don’t know what to do with grandma’s antique grand piano or that 1985 Chevy taking up space in your driveway? Before searching high and low for a buyer, you might consider donating the items to charity.

There are more than 1 million charitable organizations in the country that qualify as tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. Although the most commonly donated items are clothes and automobiles, there are charities that accept other items, from televisions to appliances, if you know where to look.

“No matter what you want to support, whether it be cleaning up your town’s rivers, helping refugees in the Sudan, or spaying feral cats in Kansas, there’s a charity out there that matches your intentions,” says Sandra Miniutti, a representative of Charity Navigator (, a Website that provides free information on the financial health of more than 4,000 charities.

Any items you donate to a legitimate charity can be deducted for the fair market value of that item when you file your taxes. The IRS defines fair market value as what the item would sell for in its current condition. To verify whether a charity is eligible to receive gifts that are tax deductible, read Publication 78 at

“We encourage donors to look at more than just the numbers when considering making a donation of goods,” says Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance ( “Find out more about the nature of the organizations’ mission and how it will use the donated items and what portion of the sale will go to the charity.”

When giving items that may be difficult to donate, Weiner encourages people to think about what type of organization might be able to use such items, like a blender, old television, piano, or car and search for the charity accordingly. “Seek out charities involved with musical activities (choir groups, music departments of schools, nonprofit theater groups, nonprofit orchestras, etc.) if donating a piano,” he says.

If your household plans to claim more than $500 of donated goods on taxes, you will need to fill out a special schedule in addition to your 1040, which can be found on the IRS Website. Whether the item donated sells for $25 or $2,500, you should always ask for an itemized receipt in the event you face an audit. Be aware that new rules for the donation of used cars went into effect January 2005. Instead of claiming the fair market value of the automobile, you are required to get a receipt from the charity stating what the car sold for at auction. Though a car’s fair market value may be $1,200, if it sold for $800, the lesser amount is the maximum you can claim.

Another option is to check with the attorney general’s office for your state. Most states require that charities register with a state agency if they are to solicit in that state. You can also visit, the National Association of State Charity Officials. “Don’t settle

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