? Changing Tax Laws Combat Fraudulent Automobile Donation Deductions
When giving its report on the rise of automobile donation to the Senate Committee on Finance in 2003, the US General Accounting Office (GAO) found quite a bit of discrepancy between the amount of monies claimed as deductions on individual and business returns and the monies reported from actual automobile donation sales by non-profit organizations (NPO). As a result, certain changes were made to the existing tax laws that govern how deductions are claimed from automobile donation.
Though California was the only state that kept track of automobile donation proceeds at the time, it was found that third party organizations handling automobile donation usually took up as much as 70% of the amount received from the original sale of such a vehicle on the wholesale market. The exact amount depending upon the arrangement between the automobile donation organization and the NPO.
In California, third-party agencies that handle automobile donation are beholden to take only a given percentage of the sale, wholesale or not, as overhead expenses, no matter what those expenses actually are. As such, higher prices for vehicles are often achieved in private sales in that state, though such sales often take longer than automobile donation auctions in other states.
When the Finance Committee heard these figures and many more that proved the federal government was bearing the brunt of these donations in the form of donation discrepancy, the process to clear this problem with auto donation deductions was initiated. There’s nothing to get a sub-committee going like an estimated $600 million shortfall in tax revenues.
This is not to say that someone using the blue book value of their car to describe a barely running rust bucket given as a charitable auto donation is setting out to defraud the government, but it certainly has the same effect. In that 2003 GAO report, the majority of tax returns investigated from 2002 showed an average actual donation to the charities of 1-5% of that reported as the original donation on the resultant tax forms largely due to the use of third party auto donation agencies and the use of wholesale and wrecking yard sales.
To this day, a large number of NPOs continue using third-party agents to facilitate auto donation. The lack of communication as to where the actual overhead expenses of the third-party auto donation agents were almost entirely lacking in detail – instead, lumping all expenses under categories such as “towing” or “other.” Indeed, bookkeeping has been a real problem with many of these setups.
In an effort to combat this discrepancy with auto donation, new rules were instated by the IRS that require a statement of monies received from the sale of the car, rather than the “fair market value” of the vehicle for vehicles netting over $5,000. Because of this, many who consider auto donation as a viable source of deduction have grown suspicious of letting third-party agencies handle the auto donation process for them.
For instance, if you have a vehicle with a fair market value of $10,000 and sell it yourself, you’ll net about $10,000. After you pay capital gains and income taxes on that amount, you should still have over $7,000 to donate to the charity of your choice, whether they take auto donations or not. This does depend upon your tax bracket, but that full amount will go to the charity and be legally deductible. A third party may be lucky to get $4,000 at auction and give less than $1,000 to your charity and giving a lower reported value to you.
On the other hand, since rules were tightened in the early ‘aughts by the IRS, vehicle donations of over $500 are officially valued for deduction purposes by their sale amount (usually at wholesale) or by an independent appraisal. In fact, you must provide a copy of such an appraisal if your net auto donation is greater than $5,000. Auto donations with a value of less than $250 are still allowed under the “honor system.”
Regardless of the value of your auto donation, the title must be free and clear. You are also responsible for providing the name and address of the charity, where the actual auto donation occurred (very often your home, if towed), a description of the car or truck and the date when the auto donation took place. If the auto donation is valued there or after the fact at less than $250, you must also have a receipt.
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Auto Diesel/05_automobile donation.txt