How to List Goodwill Donations for Tax Deductions

by Gail Cohen

    Goodwill Industries relies on in-kind donations of gently used furniture, clothing and household goods to stock resale centers around the nation. Your contributions fuel the charity’s philanthropic efforts. In return for your contributions, you can take a tax deduction when filing your taxes. There’s no specific format for creating a list of items for Goodwill—a legal pad with columns that contain the name of each item, a short description and the fair market value (FMV) usually does the job.

    Established by Dr. Edgar J. Helms in 1941, Goodwill Industries does more than collect goods: the international charity creates jobs for people who might not otherwise find employment, thanks to the organization’s training and rehabilitation mission. There is no limit on the number or amount of goods and property you can donate, but some items sell better than others. Visit a community Goodwill resale store to see the types of items their shops accept before cleaning out your closets.

    According to IRS in-kind donation guidelines, items on your donation list “need to be professionally assessed and certified.” In lieu of an authority on clothing and household goods, assess the Fair Market Value (FMV) of each item on your own. If there’s no Goodwill Industries resale store in your area, thrift stores and flea markets are good places for evaluating the selling prices of used goods. Thrift shop owners and staffers can help you price used merchandise, too.

    Make sure you compare apples to apples when formulating your list of Goodwill donations. The condition of goods is important when assessing FMV, so add notes to items on your list, like “nearly new,” “buttons replaced” and “silk fabric,” Factor in desirability and scarcity, as well. A one-of-a-kind porcelain figure or a vintage dress, for example, can boost the FMV of either because rare or hard-to-find items tend to command higher prices on the resale market.

    Goodwill Industries is legally prohibited from setting FMV prices, but the charity publishes a suggested donation valuation guide based on average sales at their resale shops throughout the nation. This guide can be found on the Goodwill website as a PDF download. Not only can the guide suggest prices to help you compile your list, but it's also a good reference, allowing you to see what types of merchandise the organization seeks for resale.

    Goodwill Industries partners with Charity Deductions.com. This online valuation service is the first web-based software for assessing the FMV of used goods, and it's easy to use. You input descriptions of items you intend to donate to Goodwill, and the service calculates the FMV and creates a list based on used goods sales throughout the country. Expect to pay a fee for the service, but if you’re concerned that your estimates may not be accurate, you may wish to try this list prep service.

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    About the Author

    Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

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