Charity begins at home – on your computer!

June 03, 2014 by Carol Thompson, EA
change button on a keyboard

Did you feel motivated to give money to an organization after the last hurricane/tornado/flood/fire?

Did you get a phone call, email, personal appeal by someone you do not know?

Were you told that all of your money would go right to the victims?

Are you sure the group is even a legal charity?

Did you give that person your credit card or checking account information? (Watch for upcoming articles about Identity Theft!)

Fraud comes in all shapes and sizes. One particularly spurious scam is claiming to be a non-profit after a major disaster and collecting money on the internet for the “victims.” However, often the only victim involved is you! Taxpayers need to be especially careful when giving money to an organization, no matter how official the name sounds. If there is a well-known movie star pitching the Red Cross on NBC, there is probably a good chance the number is OK. If you get a cold call at 10 PM asking for your credit card, be wary, be very wary.

The IRS website is an excellent source to verify non-profits. All you need is the name of the charity and the city. Churches and some of their affiliated organizations are not always listed on the site. Also, government units are not listed – but contributions to them are still tax deductible. If you make a donation to an organization that is exclusively for public purposes, such as a public library, or a city fund to provide oil to needy families, the donation is tax deductible. In fact, you can even donate money to the United States by sending a check to the U.S. Treasury.

Verify here that a non-profit exists.

  • A box will come up with “EO Select Check (Pub. 78 data)” Click on the hyperlink.
  • The next screen is titled “Exempt Organizations Select Check”
  • Check the circle for “Are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions;”
  • Fill in the information – you do not need all of it! You need the name, if possible. Fill in the city and state if you know them.
  • Click the SEARCH button, and a list appears by name or city.
  • The list may not include the exact name you put in. Some non-profits incorporated under different names, so you may need more information.
If the organization is on the list, your contribution should be fine. If not, you may want to ask more questions before turning over your charitable dollars – or deducting the contributions on your tax return. If the organization is not a legal non-profit, it is not deductible.

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