For the man or woman who has everything, donations can make a great gift. Instead of another fondue pot or a gift card, you can give money to their favorite charity in their name. What you can't do is give them the tax deduction for the donation. The IRS says someone can deduct contributions he makes to charity, not contributions someone else makes.
The Tax Deduction
Technically, what you get is a deduction, not a credit. If, say, you give $1,000 to charity in your son's name, you have a potential $1,000 deduction from your taxable income. To have an actual write-off, you have to itemize on Schedule A. If you take the standard deduction while your son itemizes, too bad: neither of you gets to claim the write-off. If you want to give him $1,000 in cash and encourage him to donate it himself, then he could get the deduction instead of you.
Even if you itemize, you don't get a write-off if you give to the wrong group. It has to be an organization the IRS considers eligible for tax-deductible donations or it's a no-go. Most churches, nonprofit schools and hospitals, government bodies and nonprofit charities qualify. The organization you want to donate to can tell you if it qualifies, or you can look it up online on the IRS' charity-finder website.
Cash or Kind
If you give cash, the value is simple: $500 in cash is a $500 deduction. Property is more complicated. Clothes or furniture that aren't in good condition aren't worth anything as a write-off. Valuable items -- a car, jewelry, collectibles -- usually give you a deduction equal to the purchase price, even if they've gone up in value since you bought them. If you donate time or professional services, the IRS rules out taking a write-off for such things.
You need proof you made the donation, in case the IRS ever audits your return. The basic for any donation record is something -- a receipt or a canceled check, for instance -- showing the name of the organization, the date you donated and the amount. Above $250, you also need a written acknowledgment from the group. If you donated property worth more than $500, you need an explanation of how you figured the value.