A charity that uses a donated vehicle for transportation or hauling goods obviously benefits directly from such a donation. However, in many cases donated cars will be sold en masse, either by the charity itself or by a dealer to raise funds for the charity. In the case of a dealer, the charity generally receives a flat fee per car, sometimes as little as $45 per car.
Listed below are tips for donors who would like to donate a car to charity. Beware that the donor’s tax deductions for car donations may be limited to the price at which the charity sold the car.
To receive the maximum tax deduction on your car donation, and to receive the satisfaction that the full value of the car benefits a charitable purpose, give it to a charity that will use the vehicle in its operations or will give it to a person in need. Otherwise, your tax deduction will not be based on the fair market value, but will be limited to the amount of money the charity receives from the sale of your car. If the charity you are donating to does sell the vehicle, ask what percentage of the proceeds they receive. See Car Donations: Taking Taxpayers for a Ride for more.
Ask if the charity accepts car donations directly, without involving a third party. If possible, drive the vehicle to the charity instead of using a towing or pickup service. This will allow the charity to keep the full amount of any proceeds from selling the car.
Make sure the charity is eligible to receive tax deductible contributions. Ask for a copy for your records of the organization’s IRS letter of determination which verifies its tax exempt status.