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‘Tis the season for giving, and that also includes donations made to charitable organizations.  A big bulk of the money that charities receive comes in at the end of the year.  Not only are people generally feeling more generous, but for those who are in a position to do so it can play an important part in tax planning.  If you have not already, consult your tax advisohelpinghandsr for advice regarding how to best maximize your charitable contributions.

Before you hand over your hard earned money to any organization it is very important to look before you leap.  After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, more than 4,000 bogus websites were created to solicit donations.  Below we have compiled some suggestions to help make the most out of your charitable donations.

  1. Research thoroughly:  There are a variety of on-line resources with information regarding non-profits including give.org, charitynavigator.org and guidestar.com.  Also visit the Charity’s website and make sure you understand who they are, what they do and how your donations will be utilized.
  2. Be cautious of the “hard sell”:  You should never feel pressured to donate.  If the organization is using hard sell tactics that should raise a red flag.
  3. Verify security of on-line donations and PO Boxes:  Verify that the organization has a physical address listed somewhere on their website.  Also, make sure that any websites you visit to make a donation are secure and safe.  If attachments or downloads look strange DO NOT proceed.
  4. Keep good records: You must keep good records of any cash contributions to claim the deduction as well as the fair market value of any goods that you have donated.  You will need all of this in hand when you file your 2013 taxes.

As the year comes to an end don’t underestimate the impact your donations of time and money can impact those in need.   There is still time to find a reputable organization that will put your donations to good use.