States' Christmas presents come via a wide variety of taxes on holiday items and services
Merry Texas Christmas, Y'all

Charitable donations make great -- and potentially
tax deductible -- last-minute Christmas gifts

Christmas is tomorrow. Have you finished your shopping?

If not, there's an easy way to come up with great gifts without fighting the last-minute shopping mall crush.

Charity collection jar

Go online and give to your favorite charity in honor of someone. In most cases, the charity will send the person, or the family of a departed loved one if that's who you choose to honor with the donation, notification of the gift and how it will be used.

The key here is to remember that this is a gift.

Recipient's (not your) cause: You need to make sure that the person in whose name you are donating is philanthropic, too, and will appreciate your charitable gift.

It's not really a present if you give and the person you're ostensibly doing it for doesn't give a flying flip about charitable causes. And yes, we all know or are related to people who don't have a charitable bone in their bodies.

But if someone on your gift list does support charitable giving, then you want to make sure that your donation in that person's name is to a charity that's near and dear to him/her.

Being a cat person, you might not agree with Aunt Jean's advocacy of pit bull rescue efforts, but this isn't for you, it's for Jean. So find a charity that takes care of the dogs she likes and donate to it in her name.

If it makes you feel better, you also can make a donation of your own to a feline-focused nonprofit.

Since it is so close to Christmas, the person likely won't get notification of the charitable gift by tomorrow. But you can give the charity honoree a note with details of the gift in a holiday card or in a small gift-wrapped package.

Gift card for charity: Another option is to give a charity gift card. offers such charity gift cards that let the recipient decide which charity will receive the prepaid card's dollars.

It works like a standard gift card. You choose the amount to load on the card, then the person who gets it decides what cause(s) he/she wants to support by going to JustGive's website. The San Francisco -based nonprofit allows card owners to redeem the gift card amounts at more at more than two million charities.

You can personalize the donation gift card with a photo from your collection and add a special holiday message. You also can send a card instantly by email or print the cards to give in person.

Yes, there is a charge to send a gift card via JustGive, but it's only $2 per card. That's certainly a bargain when you get to help your friends and relatives support good causes from the comfort of your own home.

Tax gift for you, too: Your donations also could provide a tax gift for you at filing time.

Although you're making the donations in someone's name or buying the cards for others to decide where the money goes, since you paid for it, you get the charitable deduction claim.

Remember, though, that the deductibility of these gifts still must meet the general Internal Revenue Service rules.

I don't want to keep you here too long detailing the donation deduction rules. You do, after all, have some final gift shopping to do.

So I'll refer you this week's Weekly Tax Tip, which elaborates on how charitable donations can help lower your tax bill.

You also can read about deducting your charitable giving at my Giving Tuesday blog post from earlier this month.

You can check them out later, since you have until Dec. 31 to make any other donations and have them count for the 2015 tax year.

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