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Special tax breaks proposed for Haitian earthquake relief donations

MLK Day 2010

 Life's most persistent and urgent question is:
What are you doing for others?

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Originally, the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday was created to honor the slain civil rights leader's life. In 1994, its focus shifted to a national day of service.

Mlk day of service For some, today's MLK community service efforts take a global view. Thousands of Americans are contributing humanitarian services in Haiti, where millions are in need.  Many others will be working with groups within the United States to help relief efforts for the earthquake victims.

The 2010 holiday will begin at 8 a.m. EDT with an MLK Day Virtual Town Hall. It's hosted by the Points of Light Institute and the Hands On Network.

After the meeting, join your favorite local community service organization for a "day on, not a day off."

If you need some help finding a place to volunteer, Hands On has some suggestions. You also can check out:

  • VolunteerMatch, which has a volunteer search engine; 
  •, part of the Obama Administration's United We Serve program, also has a search engine;
  • All for Good, which can direct you to service opportunities in your community; and
  •, which has a good roundup of MLK activities for youngsters.

Tax breaks for good deeds: Any cash donations you make to IRS-qualified nonprofits are deductible if your itemize your taxes.

You also can deduct unreimbursed expenses that are incidental to your volunteer work. For example, if you spend today with an organization that tutors youngsters and you buy notebooks to be used as part of the effort, you can deduct the out-of-pocket cost of those materials as a charitable gift.

The mileage to the tutoring site also is deductible at 14 cents per mile.

However, the time you spend tutoring on MLK Day or any other day is not deductible. The IRS says you can't deduct the value of your time or services.

But as any volunteer will tell you, the personal payback of helping out someone else is worth much more than any tax write-off.

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