If you’ve been on the fence about donating to Haitian earthquake relief efforts, Congress just gave you one more reason to open your pocketbook… The House and Senate have both approved legislation that will let taxpayers claim their donations on their 2009 taxes.
In the absence of this bill, you would’ve had to wait until you file your 2010 taxes to claim the deduction. Instead, any donations made between January 12th and February 28th can be included in your 2009 filing. A similar piece of legislation was passed in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated parts of Thailand and Indonesia.
If you’re curious as to what sort of donation qualifies, here’s what the House version of the bill says:
A contribution is described in this subsection if such contribution is a cash contribution made for the relief of victims in areas affected by the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti for which a charitable contribution deduction is allowable under section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
So… It has to be a cash contribution, and you’ll presumably have to prove that it was for relief efforts in Haiti if you’re ever audited. This shouldn’t be hard as long as you have a receipt from a relief organization that’s helping with the recovery efforts. If you’re looking for ways to donate, check out my list of organizations from last week.
Keep in mind that just because you can claim the donation for 2009 doesn’t mean that you have to. In some cases, it might actually be beneficial to wait and claim it in 2010. For example, if you’re not itemzing for 2009 but will be for 2010, then wait. Also, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket for 2010, it might make sense to wait.