Does Your Vehicle Donation Qualify For an IRS Deduction?

by: Pamella Neely

In donating a vehicle, there are a few requirements that must be followed. First, you should enumerate your deduction in your tax return. Your adjusted gross income should not exceed half of your total deductions. You can use Schedule A of Form 1040 to itemize your deductions, and include all relevant information from your car donation.

Download Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, from the IRS's web site for more information regarding claiming deductions and the appropriate limits. You can visit to download and review the publication.

Check the Charitable Organization's 501(c)(3) status

When you consider donating your vehicle, you must select a charitable institution that qualifies as a recipient. In determining which charity meets the requirements, you must confirm whether the organization has a 501(c)(3) status. You have a few options to choose from when confirming the charity organization's status information.

1. You can confirm this information by reviewing Publication 78, "The Cumulative List of Organizations" on the IRS's web site. This page lists all eligible charity organizations that are allowed to receive donations either in cash or non-cash from, such as your vehicle donation.

2. You can also confirm a charity institution's 501(c)(3) status via the telephone. Just call 877-829-5500 to reach the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities department, and confirm the status prior to donating your vehicle.

3. You can demand proof in writing of the 501(c)(3) status directly from the charitable institution. A letter of determination, their latest annual returns or Form 990 would be sufficient. You should not be charged any fees by the charity organization for this information. However, they are allowed to charge you reasonable copying and mailing fees.

A car that is being donated to a charitable institution cannot be owned by a car dealer. It is said that car dealers are not allowed to donate cars to avail of tax deduction.

Other Donations that may Qualify for IRS Deduction

According to IRS Publication 4303, you can donate any vehicle to a charitable organization, including cars, boats, airplanes, helicopters, etc. These vehicles can be accepted for donation as long as the vehicle is in working condition. Any motor vehicle can be donated even if it used on public streets.

Exceptions to the Rules

Since 2005, we have seen a significant shift in the rules regarding donating automobiles. These changes were implemented to prevent individuals from donating their automobiles merely to receive tax exemptions.

Today, if you will donate your vehicle to an auction charity, the deduction that you receive on your taxes is no more than the sale price of your vehicle in the charity auction or $500, whichever is lesser. On average, donated automobiles are usually sold around $200 - $500 at auction.

Get the Fair Market Value for your Automobile Donation

There are two ways you can get an IRS deduction for the fair market value of your automobile once it has been donated.

1. Ask the charity organization to provide you with a statement affirming that they will use the car for a certain purpose, or that they will give the car that you have donated to a needy individual for his or her personal use. They can also opt to sell the car in the market, but of course at a very low selling value.

2. Ask the charity organization to provide you with a statement indicating that they propose to make significant improvements to the car that you have donated. They should then itemize all the improvements they plan to complete prior to the sale of the vehicle.

When using either of these methods to secure the fair market value for your vehicle, the written statement or letter should bear your name, your taxpayer ID, your vehicle identification number and the date of donation.

You should also receive Form 8283, Non-Cash Charitable Contributions, acknowledging your donation to the charity organization. This form should be received within 30 days of the date of your donation, and should be attached to your income tax return at the time it is submitted to the IRS.