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Valuing tax-deductible donated clothing & household goods


You can quit double checking your calendar. It is indeed fall, even if the cooler temperatures haven't gotten the message across much of the United States.

If you have children, autumn is noted by the kiddos returning to classrooms. That's happening in more places, as we seem to be shifting from pandemic COVID-19 to the coronavirus' endemic phase.

Many parents also discover at this time of year that their youngsters have grown. A lot. That means new outfits.

In big families, nuclear and extended, outgrown outfits turn into hand-me-downs. But if you have no one who'll take your still good, but ill-fitting outfits, consider handing them over to a charitable group.

Some filers could even find their charitable gifts give back to them at tax-filing time by increasing their itemized deduction amount.

Still worthwhile for a few: I realize fewer taxpayers itemize nowadays. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made that deduction option much less appealing by essentially doubling the standard deduction amounts.

But a few folks each filing season do find that filling out a Schedule A offers them a larger deduction amount.

And charitable giving is one area that could increase your itemized deduction claims. This includes gifts of clothing and household goods.

The goods on donating good goods: Of course, as with any donation, you must follow the Internal Revenue Service's rules.

The key consideration when it comes to donated clothing and household goods is the condition of the items.

The IRS specifically says in its Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, "You can't take a deduction for clothing or household items you donate unless the clothing or household items are in good used condition or better."

This requirement was implemented to prevent people from using nonprofit groups as dumping grounds for items that literally should go to the town dump. It seems that some less-than-charitable folks were giving away broken appliances and incredibly threadbare apparel, also known as trash, and then claiming the not-so-good goods as tax deductions.

This means that your gifts of clothing and household goods must be in a condition that someone else would want them.

Fair assessment of items' worth: The other notable tax rule in claiming donated goods is the value of the items.

Although you'll get a receipt for your donated goods — if you don't, then think twice about dropping off your stuff; legitimate nonprofits provide documentation of gifts — it's up to you to determine what your donation was worth.

That's the value of the item as is when donated, not what you paid for it when it was new. That assessment should be the item's fair market value (FMV) at the time of the contribution.

If you've ever gone to flea markets, garage sales, or thrift stores and consignment shops, you're familiar with FMV. But here's the IRS definition to make sure:

"Fair market value is the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts."

If you don't have time to research FMV amounts at shops in your area,

You also can review the tables below to help you get what you should for your donations without prompting added IRS interest. I've based the amounts on valuation guidelines provided by Goodwill and the Salvation Army for items that are commonly dropped off at those charities' donation facilities.

Values from lowest to highest average 

Clothing article Women's attire Men's attire Children's attire
Blouse, shirt $2 to $12 $2 to $8 $1 to $6
T-shirt $1 to $6 $1 to $6 $0.50 to $3
Sweater $5 to $15 $5 to $15 $1 to $6
Skirt $2 to $12   $1 to $6
Dress $2 to $10 $2 to $15 $2 to $12
Slacks $2 to $10 $2 to $10 $1 to $6
Jeans $4 to $21 $4 to $21 $2 to $10
Business suit (2 piece) $5 to $30 $10 to $30  
Vest $3 to $9 $3 to $9 $1 to $3
Overcoat $7 to $40 $7 to $50 $3 to $15
Shoes $2 to $26 $4 to $26 $3 to $9
Swimsuit $4 to $12 $4 to $12 $1 to $6
Handbag/briefcase/backpack $3 to $9 $5 to $15 $1 to $10
Evening attire $10 to $60 $10 to $40  


Household Goods

Item Low to High Value Item Low to High Value
Kitchen utensils $0.50 to $1.50 Washing machine $41 to $156
Glasses/mugs/cups $0.50 to $1.50 Dryer $47 to $93
Plates $0.50 to $3 Color television $75 to $230
Pots and pans $1 to $3 Radio $8 to $50
Kitchen/dinette set $40 to $100 Stereo $16 to $78
Sofa $30 to $150 VCR/DVD player $8 to $16
Coffee table $10 to $12 Records, CDs, DVDs $1 to $5
End table $4 to $20 Books, paperback $1 to $2
Throw rug $2 to $12 Books, hardcover $1 to $3
Chair $5 to $15 Desk $25 to $150
Bedroom set $250 to $1,000 Computer monitor $5 to $50
Dressers $20 to $100 Printer $5 to $150
Bed linens $2 to $8 Lamp $4 to $50
Quilt, bedspread $8 to $24 Vacuum cleaner $16 to $67
Blanket, throws $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 $8 to $23 Stuffed animals $0.50 to $1
Electric stove $78 to $156 Ice skates $3 to $15
Gas stove $52 to $130 Roller blades $3 to $15
Microwave oven $10 to $50 Tennis racket $3 to $5
Refrigerator $78 to $259 Golf clubs $3 to $25


Again, these are estimates and just suggested guidelines. Use your common sense in setting a realistic FMV for your donated items.

If you grossly inflated an item's worth, meaning your collective charitable donation claim is quite large, you'll likely hear back from the IRS. The agency's examiners have been around long enough to spot exaggerated donation amounts.

A few final philanthropic tax notes: Donations of clothing and household goods are subject to the same overall tax laws and IRS rules governing charitable gifts.

One of the key rules is that your donated items (goods and/or cash) must go to a qualified charity in order to be claimed as a tax deduction.

To make sure your nonprofit of choice is one of these, check out the IRS' Tax Exempt Organization online search tool. However, since we recently learned the IRS has approved some fake charities, you might also want to do some additional checking.

Several nonprofit watchdog groups also verify the legitimacy of nonprofits. Reputable charity checkers include Candid (the merged GuideStar and Foundation Center), Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Watch.

Also, keep good records of your donations. When it comes to clothing and household goods, you don't have to send your donation details with your tax return. But if the IRS asks about any of your gifts, your complete and accurate records can help you prove that your donations and associated deduction are legit.

Receipts from the charities go a long way in validating your donations. Again, receipts don't need to be filed with your tax return. They're just for your use in case your gifts are questioned. And as noted earlier in this post, if a charity refused to give or mail or email you a receipt, that's a sign that it might not be legit.

I know this is a lot to consider if you want to claim your donations as charitable deductions. But following the giving rules as you go along makes the process much smoother, and helps ensure that you get the most tax benefit of your gifts.

And even if you don't deduct your donations, giving useful gifts to your favorite reputable charities is a great way to feel good!

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