Deducting Donations to Haiti Relief

According to an IRS bulletin, cash donations made to Haitian relief between January 11 and March 1 can be deducted from your 2009 return.

Following the disastrous earthquake that leveled much of Haiti’s capital and killed an estimated 200,000 people, relief organizations have received millions of dollars in donations. Americans have opened their wallets to the tune of more than $560 million so far and that figure is likely to rise. In view of the huge amount of cash given to relief efforts, Congress has passed a law allowing donors to deduct Haiti donations on their 2009 income tax return, if they choose to.

According to the IRS bulletin announcing the new rule, cash donations made to Haitian relief between January 11 and March 1 can be deducted from your 2009 return. Donations of food or clothing are not eligible, nor are donations to charities that don’t meet IRS standards. To take the write-off, you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A; those who opt for the standard deduction are not eligible. The bulletin also notes that by filing early and using e-filing, taxpayers can see an almost immediate benefit from their donations, since refunds for those who use these methods can take as little as 10 days.

During the earthquake crisis, a new way to donate appeared on the scene - text messaging. While convenient, text messaging raises some questions about providing proof of your donation come tax time. The IRS bulletin says that a copy of your cell phone bill will do the job if it has the date and the amount of your donation as well as the name of the charity you gave to. For more information, see IRS Bulletin IR-2010-12.