Various charities collect and distribute all sorts of items to needy individuals, including new and used wheelchairs. Donating a wheelchair might save you on your taxes, but only through a tax deduction, not a tax credit. However, not every wheelchair donation counts toward reducing your income tax bill.
Qualified Organizations Only
When you're donating a wheelchair, you always get a warm fuzzy feeling no matter who you're giving it to. However, the IRS has restrictions on who you can give it to and receive an income tax break: only donations to qualified charitable organizations count. Examples include schools, religious organizations and public charities. Giving a wheelchair to an individual, on the other hand, never gets you any sympathy from Uncle Sam, no matter how deserving or needy the person is.
The amount of your deduction equals the fair market value of the wheelchair when you make the donation. For a used wheelchair, that means the price that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, if neither were needing to make the trade. When you make the donation, make sure you get a receipt from the charity documenting your gift for tax purposes. The receipt should be written and include a description of the wheelchair and whether you received anything in return for the donation.
You only actually save a fraction of the value of deductions on your taxes, because deductions reduce your taxable income, unlike a credit, which directly reduces your tax liability. You can figure your savings by multiplying your tax bracket by the value of your wheelchair -- the higher your bracket, the bigger your savings. For example, say you fall in the 28 percent tax bracket and donate a $500 wheelchair. Multiplying $500 by 0.28 gives you a tax savings of $140.
If you're not itemizing your deductions, you're not going to save anything on your taxes from donating the wheelchair. The charitable donation deduction is only available if you forgo the standard deduction, which is $6,100 for singles and $12,200 for joint filers as of 2013. Depending on the value of the wheelchair and your other itemized deductions, such as medical expenses, mortgage interest and state and local income taxes, it simply might not make sense for you to itemize, in which case you'll lose your deduction.
Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."