For some households, a car donation may be the single largest charitable gift made during the year, or ever. This is all the more reason to make sure that the donation is being used for the greatest charitable benefit and that you can take full advantage of any potential tax deduction.
In order to take a tax deduction for donating a car, boat or other vehicle, there are a number of other things you should keep in mind. First verify that the recipient organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. To verify that a charity is eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable gifts, you can do one or more of the following. See if the organization is listed in IRS Publication 78, the Cumulative List of Organizations, which is likely to be available at most large public libraries. Visit the online version of IRS Publication 78 at http://www.irs.gov/app/pub-78/. Or, ask the organization for a copy of its tax exempt status determination letter. (Note that churches are not required to apply for exempt status, and may not have such a letter or be included in the mentioned IRS publication. A car donation to a church, however, would still be deductible.)
If the organization is a charity, you can deduct only the fair market value of your car donation. In other words, this is the price the car would sell for today in its current condition. If the used car is not in good condition and needs significant repairs, don’t believe promotional promises that claim you will be able to get “top value” for your car donation based on one of the latest published guides that show the average regional prices for various used cars. If you are claiming that the car is worth $5,000 or more, you will need to get an official outside appraisal in order to substantiate the claimed value for the IRS.
Also, if you are claiming a car donation of $500 or above, you will need to complete and attach IRS Form 8283 to your tax return. For your records, you also will need proof that you made a charitable gift. The best evidence is to transfer the title of the car to the charity and keep a copy of this document. This title change also will help you avoid potential problems that can occur if the car is somehow parked illegally by the organization or is involved in an accident or other mishap before the charity is able to resell the vehicle.