Haiti donation deadline looms

Wednesday Feb. 24, 2010
Posted 8 a.m. EDT

In a normal tax year, when it comes to reducing your tax bill, if you haven't made most of your tax moves by Dec. 31, then you're out of luck.

But 2009 is not a normal tax year.

In the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January, the charitable donation rules were tweaked.

Thanks to the law change, monetary gifts you made in 2010 to a charity providing relief efforts to Haiti can be counted as a 2009 tax deduction.

But that option is only around for a few more days.

The special Haiti donation provision allows cash contributions -- in IRS-speak that's donations by check, credit card, debit card, texting and, of course, cash -- to be counted as itemized deductions on 2009 returns if they were made between Jan. 12 and Feb. 28.

That gives you just a few more days to donate if you want the tax break applied to your 2009 filing.

If you donate on March 1, you'll have to wait until you file your 2010 return next year to claim the deduction.

But don't worry if you decide on Sunday to give to a group providing aide to Haitian earthquake victims. You can charge the donation to your credit card and the gift still counts even though you pay the bill later.

Back to normal: While the ability to shift a deduction into a previous tax year is out of the ordinary, the usual charitable contribution rules still apply.

Your contributions must be made to qualified charities, in this case specifically to those dedicated to Haitian earthquake relief.

Qualified charities are those that have passed IRS muster in how they're organized. To determine if an organization is IRS OK, conduct an online search of IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations.

Also, get receipts and keep good records.

For donations by text message, a telephone bill is good if it shows the name of the organization to which you gave, the date of the contribution and the amount donated. For other contributions, a bank record, such as a cancelled check, or a receipt from the charity should satisfy the IRS should it have any questions about your deductible goodwill.

Finally, remember that you don't have to count your earthquake relief donations on your 2009 return. If the contribution will do you more tax good in the 2010 tax year, then wait and claim it next filing season.

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