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Figuring the tax value of goods you give to charity

This post reviewed and some links changed on March 29, 2017.

Spring has sprung here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least according to the calendar.

It arrived, depending on your time zone, late Saturday, March 19, or early Sunday, March 20. That makes it the earliest arrival of spring in our lifetime (thus far!). Maybe that's why some places welcomed the new season with snow.


Regardless of the weather, one thing is a constant at this time of year. Lots of folks jump right into spring cleaning.

Housekeeping is not really my thing. Thank goodness the hubby actually enjoys using a vacuum, and not just during the spring.

Cleaning up and out: But I do have a role in this annual task. I'm in charge of clearing out stuff that we no longer need or use.

This is my job because most of the items we discard go to charities and I'm tasked with determining the values that will be used to claim them as itemized tax deductible donations on Schedule A.

The general rule is that you use the donated item's fair market value. IRS Publication 561 offers some guidance.

Another good example is garage or yard sale pricing, or what similar items are priced at in your local thrift or consignment shops.

Goodwill and the Salvation Army also have online donated goods valuation guidelines. I've pulled some of the more commonly donated items from those organizations' lists and reproduced them below.

Values from lowest to highest average 

Clothing article Women’s attire Men’s attire Children’s attire
Blouse, shirt $2 to $12 $2 to $12 $1 to $8
T-shirt $0.50 to $4 $0.50 to $6 $0.50 to $2
Sweater $3.75 to $15 $2.50 to $15 $1 to $8
Skirt $2 to $12 -- $1 to $6
Dress $4 to $28 -- $2 to $12
Slacks $3.50 to $23 $2 to $15 $1 to $8
Jeans $4 to $21 $4 to $21 $2 to $12
Jacket $4 to $12 $6 to $12 $1 to $6
Business suit $5 to $30 $10 to $30 --
Overcoat $7 to $40 $7 to $60 $3 to $20
Shoes $2 to $25 $3.50 to $25 $2 to $8.75
Swimsuit $4 to $12 $2.50 to $12 $1 to $6
Handbag/briefcase/backpack $2 to $40 $2 to $40 $1 to $15
Evening attire $10 to $60 $10 to $60 --


Household Goods

Item Low to High Value Item Low to High Value
Kitchen utensils $0.50 to $1.50 Washing machine $40-$150
Glasses/mugs/cups $0.50 to $1.50 Dryer $45 to $90
Plates $0.50 to $3 Color television $75 to $225
Pots and pans $1 to $3 Radio $2 to $50
Kitchen/dinette set $40 to $900 Stereo $15 to 75
Sofa $30 to $200 VCR/DVD player $8 to $15
Coffee table $10 to $65 Records, CDs, DVDs $1 to $5
End table $4 to $50 Books, paperback $0.75 to $2
Throw rug $1.50 to $12 Books, hardcover $1 to $3
Chair $5 to $100 Desk $25 to $140
Bedroom set $250 to $1,000 Computer monitor $5 to $50
Dressers $20 to $60 Printer $5 to $150
Bed linens $2 to $8 Lamp $4 to $50
Quilt, bedspread $3 to $24 Vacuum cleaner $15 to $65
Blanket, afghan $2 to $15 Lawn mower $25 to $100
Bath towels $0.50 to $4 Bicycle $5 to $80
Air conditioner $20 to $90 Puzzles, board games $0.50 to $3
Heater $7.50 to $22 Stuffed animals $0.50 to $1
Electric stove $75 to $150 Ice skates $3 to $15
Gas stove $50 to $125 Roller blades $3 to $15
Microwave oven $10 to $50 Tennis racket $2 to $5
Refrigerator $75 to $250 Golf clubs $2 to $25


Also check with your local Goodwill or Salvation Army office or website. Fair market prices differ from region to region. The New England Goodwill website, for example, has slightly higher valuations for many of the items on these lists.

A few final tax notes: Remember, all your contributed items, from clothing to household goods like furniture,  must be in good or better shape.

Give your items only to eligible organizations if you want to deduct the donations. You can make sure the charity is eligible by using the IRS' Exempt Organizations Select Check.

About those deductions, as my earlier reference to Schedule A noted, you must itemize to claim them. If you take the standard deduction, you don't get this tax break.

And finally, get a receipt!

Happy spring cleaning!

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Hey - I've been looking all over far an answer to something, and if I ultimately need a tax attorney, I'll begrudgingly do that, but wondering if you can help. I coupon and so I end up with oodles of goods that I don't pay much for. When I go to donate said items - toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper goods - I've been told that it's the value of the item, not what I paid for it, that I can claim. One accountant said it's the full price of the item, another said it's what shows on the receipt, and one who hasn't worked as an accountant in decades said it's what I paid after coupons.

It seems like fair market value would apply, and that would be sticker price, but the last thing I want is to be audited and be wrong...

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