Ten Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions

When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. If you made qualified donations last year, you may be able to take a tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.
The IRS has put together the following 10 tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. Contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates.
  2. You cannot deduct the value of your time or services. Nor can you deduct the cost of raffles, bingo or other games of chance.
  3. If your contributions entitle you to merchandise, goods or services, including admission to a charity ball, banquet, theatrical performance or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  4. Donations of stock or other property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Special rules apply to donation of vehicles.
  5. Clothing and household items donated must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible.
  6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization receiving your donation, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
  7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more.
  8. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
  9. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.
  10. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.

For more information on charitable contributions, refer to Form 8283 and its instructions, as well as Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These forms and publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

  • Search for Charities or download Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations
  • Publication 526, Charitable Contributions (PDF 178K)
  • Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property (PDF 101K)
  • Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF 176K)
  • Schedule A, Itemized Deductions (PDF)
  • Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions (PDF)
  • Instructions for Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions (PDF)

YouTube Videos:
Charitable Contributions:  English  |  Spanish  |  ASL
Haiti Earthquake Donations:  English  |  Spanish  |  ASL 

This material is for informational purposes only and not intended and financial, legal or tax advice. Please consult your finance, legal or tax professional to confirm the accuracy of all information.  

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Business loans at hazina development trust

I have been covering mostly on interest accruing business and or personal loans for a while now but today I have decided to highlight something about interest free loans.What? Yes, I mean loans which will never attract interest.

If I say interest free loans it’s rarely supposed to be from the government but mostly always from Shariah compliant financial institutions which is the reason for this post.Here in Kenya, I know there are many big and established shariah compliant banks like Habib bank, Gulf African bank , First Community bank , Bank of India and many others which I will cover sometimes later but due to the nature of the people am dealing with (poor micro entrepreneurs),I will cover Micro-finance institutions starting with Hazina Development Trust for this post.

Hazina Development Trust was founded in the year 2011 by Mr Hassan an experienced financial consultant with its headquarters located at Takaungu, a small roadside town along Mombasa-Malindi highway. The sole goal of the initiative was to relieve the area residents of Takaungu (especially women and youths) of their longtime povertiness by providing consultancy in micro-enterprise and financial management.

Loan Facilities.
After noticing their positive impact in the community, Hazina Development Trust turned to a fully Micro-finance institution and started expanding it coverage along the coastal region reaching Mtwapa, Mombasa city and Likoni in South Coast. Being Shariah compliant all its credit facilities accrue no interest. You only share the profit and that is only if it grows above ksh5000.There are about four loan packages fully functional now.

Mkopo nibebe-This is the biashara start-up loan which is the most popular as it allows women or youths groups to put their first step into owning and running a business. The maximum amount one group can borrow is ksh15000 and there’s no collateral required.

Graduate biz loan- it’s called biashara Imara loan as it targets groups which have successful repaid their first loan .Individual members can borrow too.The maximum loan amount is ksh100000.

Hazina Hassanah credit- it’s a special kind of loan given to very poor members of the Hassanat division, a group receiving mentorship services at the Hazina Development trust.The credit facility is 100% interest free thus named 0% social development loan.

Joint investment partnership- Targets people with valid business dreams.It can be a group project or a merchant investment plan that you want support for.

Due to their closeness to the community, this trust developed other loan packages including; school fees loan,medical cover(afya bora loan) and festival loans which are yet to be full mature.

Thinking to reach them? You can just do that through the following contacts;

Formax Centre in Mombasa.
Cellphone; 0706247815/0713529199.
Email; info@hazinatrust.com or townoffice@hazinatrust.com

Mtwapa- Misha Plaza.
Cellphone; 0706780066/0726296977
Email; mtwapa@hazinatrust.com

Takaungu Adjudication centre.
Cellphone; 0706780062/0723365409
Email; kibaoni@hazinatrust.com

Ramadhani Kinudi Building, Majengo Mapya- Likoni.
Cellphone; 0706780065/0724705549
Email; likoni@hazinatrust.com

Please share to friends or leave a comment. Thanks.

Five Ways to Obtain IRS Forms and Publications

The Internal Revenue Service has free tax forms and publications on a wide variety of topics. If you need IRS forms, here are five easy methods for getting the information you need.

  1. On the Internet You can access forms and publications on the IRS Web site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at IRS.gov.
  2. By Phone You can call 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) Monday through Friday 7:00 am to 10:00 pm local time – except Alaska and Hawaii which are Pacific time – to order current year forms, instructions and publications as well as prior year forms and instructions. You should receive your order within 10 days.
  3. At Convenient Locations in Your Community During the tax filing season, many libraries and post offices offer free tax forms to taxpayers. Some libraries also have copies of commonly requested publications. Many large grocery stores, copy centers and office supply stores have forms you can photocopy or print from a CD.
  4. By Mail Order your tax forms and publications from the IRS National Distribution Center at 1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway, Bloomington, IL, 61705-6613. You should receive your products 10 days after receipt of your order.
  5. Taxpayer Assistance Centers There are 401 TACs across the country where IRS offers face-to-face assistance to taxpayers, and where taxpayers can pick up many IRS forms and publications. Visit IRS.gov and go to Contact My Local Office on the Individuals page to find a list of TAC locations by state. On the Contact My Local Office page, you can also select TAC Site Search and enter your zip code to find the IRS walk-in office nearest you as well as a list of the services available at specific offices.


  • Publication 910, Guide to Free Tax Services (PDF 636K)
  • Publication 2053A, Quick and Easy Access to IRS Tax Help and Forms (PDF 40K)
  • Order Publication 1796, Federal Tax Products on CD-ROM, from NTIS — the National Technical Information Service.
  • State tax forms
This material is for informational purposes only and not intended and financial, legal or tax advice. Please consult your finance, legal or tax professional to confirm the accuracy of all information.  

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    Sydney vacancy rates remain tight

    Sydney market in the spotlight
    A great deal of talk in the media about housing affordability this week and what should be done about it, including a ream of band aid solutions, mainly targeted at Sydney.

    In most locations around Australia, mortgage serviceability is not remotely stretched with mortgage rates available from around 4 per cent – and the ability to fix interest rates at around 4.5 per cent for five years.

    Of course, it is true on the other hand that the Sydney housing market is becoming more expensive almost by the week.

    But then really, what did people expect with policies which promote such rampaging population growth? That Sydney house prices would fall?

    Sydney to 5 million

    As expected with net interstate migration from New South Wales declining to the lowest level on record Greater Sydney’s population surged by a record 84,230 to 4.84 million in FY2014, and the population of Greater Sydney will surpass 5 million within the next year.
    Thus despite what some bloggers have interpreted to be a risk of looming “oversupply” of properties, I’m presently of the view that this construction market cycle will likely pass with only a few pockets of significant overbuilding in Sydney (such as unit developments around the airport, and a few transport hubs).

    Vacancy rates

    SQM Research released its latest vacancy rates figures for the month of May 2015 today, which showed Sydney vacancies remaining tight at 1.8 per cent.

    I’ve run a little analysis here previously on where the vacancy rates in inner ring Sydney are creeping up, and where they are not.
    Only Hobart of the capital cities now has a tighter rental market with a vacancy rate of 1.5 per cent.

    In the month of May vacancy rates crept up in Adelaide to 1.9 per cent, in Melbourne to 2.3 per cent, and in Brisbane to 2.4 per cent.

    Vacancy rates in Canberra have held steady at 1.9 per cent.

    The highest capital vacancy rate remains in fragile Darwin at 3.5 per cent, but Perth is now running the Top End capital close with its vacancy rate jumping from 3.0 to 3.4 per cent in May.
    While rents in Sydney continue to rise at around 3 per cent per annum – another indicator that oversupply is not a pressing issue – asking rents have been declining in Darwin, Perth and Canberra.
    Asking prices skyrocket in Sydney
    SQM Research has also recorded a huge surge in asking prices in Sydney.
    Over the three years, asking prices for all Sydney houses are up by 30 per cent and units by 26 per cent.
    In particular, 2 bedroom units have seen asking prices booming, up by 32 per cent in only 36 months.
    Despite the Sydney property boom, the latest round of Reserve Bank Board Minutes for June 2015 confirmed that property markets would present no barrier to interest rates being cut once again if required. Asserted the Minutes:

    Conditions in the housing market in Sydney and parts of Melbourne had remained very strong, though trends were more mixed in other cities.”
    And, indeed, the Reserve Bank shed more light on its thoughts relating to housing:

    Noting that housing price growth in other cities and regional areas had declined over recent months, members discussed the strength and composition of underlying supply and demand conditions in different parts of the housing market. 

    They also observed that there was a relatively low stock of dwellings for sale in Sydney and Melbourne and that dwellings took only a short time to sell.”

    The Board Minutes also noted that, just as we looked at in the Housing Finance data here, New South Wales mortgage approvals are now rising sharply for both owner-occupiers and investors.

    For Sydney, it seems that all bets are on.

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    Financial Orbit wrap 19/06/15

    Five sentences or graphics which sum up the Financial Orbit output over the last 24 hours across the website, twitter account and anything else thought about…

    An early wrap as I hope to publish a new Financial Orbit Speaks before the end of the day.  By the way did you notice the new Financial Orbit Speaks tab on the website?

    1. I write up the Smith & Wesson numbers/conference call and conclude there is a clear level to buy…and sell.

    2. Greece – break up of talks late yesterday, to reconvene next Monday.  Best comment post the meeting? IMF Lagarde commenting on state of negotiations says not enough dialogue between “adults” in the room.  Here is the best graphic representation of those talks via @RANsquawk: 
    To me a ‘haircut’/bond restructuring is eminently sensible.  Meanwhile in the Ukraine I note here the first explicit talk of a haircut I have seen…and at 40% I would rate this as a sensible sort of proportional level.  
    3. I write about Poundland (and loom bands) in my latest ShareProphets column (link here)…
    4. …meanwhile over at Yahoo Finance Contributors (link here) I talk about China, Hershey’s, earnings warnings and…chocolate teapots! 
    5. Finally – inspired by my Hershey’s analysis above – I have a look at what price I would buy the stock. 
    And finally…have a good weekend! 

    FOMC thoughts – low(er) growth and a lower dollar

    Ah, Federal Reserve policy and press conference day.  Always an excitable moment but – as is often the case – the more excited you are about something the less exciting the reality is.  Today’s FOMC statement (link here) had that feel to it.  The key comment to me in the formal text was this one: 
    ‘The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term’

    Ah…the old ‘reasonably confident’ line.  Janet Yellen expanded on this in the press conference with a clear adherence to a data dependent decision-making methodology.  I am sure it was always this way but in this world of analysis and emphasis placed on even the merest hint about something maybe it had to be plainly reiterated in (ahem) Janet and John style.  
    Two aspects particularly struck me.  First ‘the dots’ which usefully in this Financial Times graphic shows the median position of interest rates over time.  A near 3% interest rate level by the end of 2017?  That feels unlikely to me.  
    My instinct would remain that the surprise may be the more elongated low/no interest rate rise period.  Consensus would have it that a rate rise is relatively imminent (see below for some betting industry extrapolated proportions) but all this can hardly be described as anything approaching a normal cycle, can it?
    Odds of Fed rate hikes by meeting date:

    Jul 2015 0%

    Sep 22%

    Oct 43%

    Dec 62%

    Jan 2016 76%

    Mar 85%

    Apr 92%

    Jun 96%

    The lack of normalcy is best captured by the Fed’s own forward forecast even ignoring the downward revision in 2015 real GDP hopes (1.8-2%) compared to the March projection of 2.3-2.7%.  For me the longer run metric of 2-2.3% is simply not that exciting…but yet market valuations are high helped by that wonderful distorter of DCF models in the form of ultra low interest rates.  

    So how about the market impact.  No surprise that the US bourses closed up – as shown below this is very much the norm.

    No, the most striking aspect was the weakness of the US dollar.  Good news for corporate America and the (as noted regularly on this page) shabby shorter-term earnings growth profile of the S&P 500.  Less good news for Europe of course and unsurprisingly a higher euro (the heady heights of 1.13+ against the dollar even with the Greek crisis brewing) pushed the DAX future into negative territory.  So a bit of volatility (like Draghi the other week Yellen made no apology for enhanced volatility) but ultimately no radical regime shift.  
    From here I don’t expect big FX shifts (euro is 8-10% below a fair PPP value but that’s reasonable given the Greek issues and general limited structural reform) and hence US earnings are still unlikely to romp on the back of FX weakness.  No, the key future insight is centred on the lack of sharp GDP improvement and how this blends into equity valuations over time.  It may look good on the DCF BUT the reality is going to get more specific. 
    We got lower growth and a lower dollar but all the FOMC chat says to me is that we are moving deeper into the midst of a stock picking market.  On your investments you have got to get active.  

    A few macro and related thoughts/charts today

    Greece – ‘to accept that Greece will spend the next 42 years paying back an average of €10bn a year to its creditors. That cannot be right…It follows that Greece’s debts will be written down, the only question being whether this is done in an orderly or chaotic way…it seems absurd to suggest that a country accounting for just 2 per cent of eurozone GDP could wreck the entire enterprise. If it could, then that enterprise is not very robust’.  Good link here.  More on Greece later with the ELA rollover and the latest IMF comments…

    Tension – Markit iTraxx Financial Index, a closely watched gauge of sentiment in credit markets, has surged to a 15 month high today as the intensifying Greek debt crisis unnerves investors. The index, which tracks credit default swaps on the senior debt of 30 European banks and insurers, rose three and a half basis points to 87.522 yesterday, its highest level since March 2014.
    The volatility fears…interesting to read what I noted yesterday on the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Global Fund Managers Report (link here). 
    Europe citizens – front page of the FT has a graphic which shows that ‘only 45% of Greeks felt like they were citizens of the EU when last surveyed, the lowest share of any member country.  Britons and Italians follow closely behind’ 

    Ukraine – big bondholders write a letter to the FT saying that a ‘haircut on bonds is wrong path for Ukraine’.  Classic creditors!  In my view they need to get real…

    China – slowing growth…but will still grow the equivalent of four Greece’s this year! Some great charts in this…

     …and other Bloomberg reports:

    UK deaths – not the sort of chart I would have expected…

    How to show a customer pre-payment on an invoice.

    If you accept deposits or prepayment from your customers and wish to reflect those payments and show only the outstanding balance due on your invoices, a simple customized invoice will do the trick.  Read here to find out how you can record these prepayments.

     Once the invoice has been created you can choose the Apply Credits button at the bottom of the invoice screen.

    Any available credits for this customer will appear in a pop-up.  Choose the pre-payment that you recorded for this invoice.  Select Done.  In the lower right portion of your invoice screen you will see the payment amount that has been applied and the balance due on the invoice.

    Your next step will be to create a customized invoice form to show this same information on your printed or e-mailed invoice.  From the invoice screen choose Customize from the invoice menu bar.  If you have a newer version of Quickbooks a pop-up window will appear asking if you want to create your own form or customize an existing form.  Choose the Customize Data Layout option.

    In the customization screen choose the Footer Tab, and click the Print box for Payments/Credits and for Balance Due.

    New versions of Quickbooks will automatically adjust the layout to fit these extra fields at the bottom of the invoice.  If you have an older version of Quickbooks you will need to manually adjust the layout so that your lines and boxes do not overlap.  To make the manual adjustments click on the Layout Designer button at the bottom of the customization window.

    In the Layout Designer window you can click on various boxes and drag the field indicator buttons to make the box smaller.  You can also click and drag various boxes to relocate them on the invoice.  When you click on a box there will be a message in the lower left corner of the Layout Designer screen telling you what box you have clicked on…whether it is a text box, a data box, etc.  Adjust the main body of the invoice to allow room for your new footers at the bottom of the invoice.

    When you are done click OK and you will see a preview window of what your invoice will look like when printed.  You can hop right back into the Layout Designer if you need to make further adjustments.   This is what your customized invoice will look like…

     Another great feature is that once you customize this invoice you don’t have to repeat the process.  It remains stored in your Quickbooks.  You can even rename it so it’s easier to use later.  From the Additional Customization window choose the Basic Customization tab,

    …then select Manage Templates,

     The invoice you are customizing will appear highlighted in the Manage Templates window.  Click on the Template name in the upper right and change the name as desired.  The next time you create an invoice you simply click the Template drop down in the upper right corner and choose the invoice you wish to use.   

    Again, please post comments so that answers to your questions can be addressed on the blog.  Happy Bookkeeping!

    This material is for informational purposes only and not intended and financial, legal or tax advice. Please consult your finance, legal or tax professional to confirm the accuracy of all information. Quickbooks is a registered product of Intuit.

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