? Why Vehicle Donations Are So Popular in The United States
In the 1990s and early ‘aughts, it seemed you couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing an ad or hearing a radio commercial, begging people for vehicle donations. These ads resulted in a massive increase in the number of cars donated per year, but the overall number still wasn’t very high.
According to a General Accounting Office report to the Senate Committee on Finance made in late 2003, the actual number of individuals or small businesses that donated automobiles was less than 800,000. That means that fewer than half a percent of the nearly 200 million Americans who file with the IRS each year had vehicle donations to claim in a given year when the practice was at its height.
This doesn’t count the many who had the right to claim such a deduction for vehicle donations and didn’t bother itemizing their returns. It was estimated that the actual number of donations might be as high as 1 million, or a little over half a percent.
Since 2005, the numbers of vehicle donations have declined with the amount of advertising, but also because the relative benefit to donors has been decreased when the IRS tightened up a loophole that essentially had the federal government subsidizing the used car parts market in the guise of charitable donation.
Today, vehicle donations account for a far lower percentage of tax returns than they did in 2004, though numbers now remain constant, with far fewer discrepancies between the amounts donated to charities thusly and the amount claimed.
That said, there certainly are still opportunities with vehicle donations to claim the full value of your car on the open market – or what the IRS calls the, “fair market value,” of your car. This requires you to find a charitable non-profit organization (NPO) that can use your car directly as part of its charitable mission. This may involve giving it away to a needy family or using it to deliver hot meals.
Of course, given the amount of money spent on advertising, most people don’t realize the donation option that will take their car (often not running) away has become such a difficult prospect. Essentially, most taxpayers who go the option of using a third party agent for their vehicle donations, are limited to a $250 deduction without documentation, and up to $500 without the charitable NPO having to file a Form 8283.
Such a form is sent out after vehicle donations to acknowledge the date, type, actual value to the charity and ultimate use of your gift. This is in addition to the receipt you should get as soon as the title is transferred and the car hauled away.
If you’re able to drive the car or truck to their offices, many charities that have an actual use for your car will accept donations. Otherwise, most third-party agents that facilitate vehicle donations don’t want to assume the liability, preferring instead to tow all vehicles away indiscriminately.
Vehicle donations remain popular in the United States because there is still a potential for a significant tax deduction. However, since 2005 this deduction has been that much more difficult for people making relatively less valuable donations to claim the true “fair market value” for their cars. If one is well-off enough to donate a car that’s worth at least $5,000 in independent appraisal, the way is cleared for this higher rate of deduction.
Choosing a charity that handles vehicle donations independently of for-profit middle-men will allow even smaller donations to retain their full value in deduction form. Were there no tax deductions, it isn’t likely that people would be nearly as interested in charitable donations of cars.
It is uncertain how this is affecting the quality of donated cars, though the quantity certainly has gone down. It is possible that the quality of cars that reach actual poor people who need cars to get to work and day care has actually gone down since there are fewer donated vehicles to choose from, or it may simply be that the quality of donated vehicles has gone up, with those junkers previously sold now going to recycling programs and skirting the donation angle completely.
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Auto Diesel/50_vehicle donations.txt