How to Track Drop-Off Donations for Tax Purposes

I have wanted to do this post for a very long time but, unlike in the US, here in Canada we are unable to track the drop-off donations we bring to a thrift store for tax purposes.  As a result I really didn’t feel qualified to tell you how it’s done.  So I’ve brought in the best of the best.  Geralin Thomas, a very well known Professional Organizer in the US, is here to help simplify the matter for us.  I appreciate her time and attention to this post and I do hope you find it helpful.  Welcome Geralin!

Winter! The days are short, the nights are long and we tend to spend more time indoors – surrounded by our belongings. It’s the perfect season to rid our homes of unwanted stuff and by that I mean things that we no longer use, like, want or need.  Items like: clothes, handbags, luggage, furniture, decorative items, toasters, costume jewelry, or artwork to name a few. In other words, clutter.

Less clutter means more space and more unoccupied space means less time spent maintaining items; less time spent maintaining items means more free time to do whatever it is we want to do. As a professional organizer, one thing I feel confident saying is that very few of us, the well-organized among us included,  want to spend more time doing laundry, dusting, vacuuming and maintaining our ‘stuff.’ We want to hang out with our families and friends doing fun activities. Or, doing nothing at all. Fortunately, we have options.  Many options.

Options for permanently decluttering stuff include consigning or selling on eBay or a yard sale.  If you’ve ever hosted a yard sale you know they can be a lot of work. They are time consuming and aren’t always profitable. While some folks think consigning and selling are well-worth their time and effort, others believe the opposite to be true. They’d much rather simply donate their stuff to a charity.

How to Track Drop-Off Donations for Tax Purposes

Donating goods not only helps us declutter, it also helps us financially by earning tax write-offs. Plus, in addition to earning a tax write off, it’s nice to know we are helping the needy while decluttering our closets, countertops and cabinets.

What to Donate:

Accessories, Shoes, Boots (belts, handbags, scarves, etc.)

Art and Decorative Household Items (clocks, knick-knacks)

Appliances (small items: blenders, toasters)

Books, CDs, DVDs, Tapes, Vinyl records

Camping Equipment and Sporting Goods


Collectibles (stamps, books, coins)

Computers and Electronics (check before bringing these in)

Furniture (smaller items: lamps, decorative tables, ottomans)

Household Items (dishes, cookware, artificial plants)




Toys and Bikes (provided they are safe and not under recall)

Working Small Appliances (toasters, blenders)

What Not to Donate:

Items recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (check for a list of recalled items)

Appliances (fridge, stove, washer/dryer, etc.)

Automobile parts

Broken Items (appliances and/or electronics)

Building supplies (lumber, concrete, brick, stones, etc.)

Food, Drugs, Vitamins

Furniture (contaminated or in disrepair)

Gas Grills


Mattresses and Box Springs

Newspapers, Magazines, Junk Mail

Paint, Toxic Chemicals, Used Batteries

Weapons (ammunition, guns, knives, swords, pepper spray)

Limits and Itemization:

This information, from the Turbo Tax blog (September 12, 2012) helps clarify exactly how much can be deducted.

The limits for how much you can donate to charity don’t affect many of us. The deduction is limited to 50% of your income, and donations of property to certain organizations, such as veterans’ organizations, fraternal societies, nonprofit cemeteries, and certain private non-operating foundations, or to be used by an organization, are limited to 30% of your income. Unless the stuff in your closets is really, really valuable, those limitations probably won’t impact you.

To get a tax deduction for donations, you must itemize your deductions. That means your eligible tax deductions, must exceed the IRS standard deduction (in 2012, $5,950 if you are single, $11,900 if married, and $8,700 if head of household.)

Assigning a Value to Donations:

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help us determine how much our stuff is worth.  Here’s a list of a few places:

Turbo Tax – It’s Deductible

Bankrate – Tax Valuation for Donated Goods

In addition, both The Salvation Army and Goodwill have comprehensive valuation guides (click on the links to read them).

Finally, IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, and IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, are useful too.

Donation Tracking Tools:

Goodwill Donation Receipt Builder ~ FREE

iDonatedIt app for iPhone ~ $2.99

Drop-Off Donation Log ~ FREE

Donation Tracking Sheet ~ FREE

Donation Tracker Printable ~ FREE

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that we should only donate things that are in good condition – – the things we’d feel good about giving to a friend.

geralin Geralin Thomas is the owner of Metropolitan Organizing, LLC. She lives in Cary, NC with her husband and 2 teen sons.  Geralin and her team of professional organizers offer a variety of organizing services related to homes and home offices. In addition, Geralin offers professional organizer training through one-on-one telephone and Skype sessions for new organizers from all over the world. Oh, and if Geralin looks familiar to you, it’s because she’s regularly featured on AETV’s Emmy-nominated TV show, “Hoarders”.  When she’s not working, she enjoys watching documentaries and reading blogs. 

Although the information contained here is presented in good faith and believed to be correct, it is general in nature and is not intended as professional tax advice. 

Filed under: Clutter Control, Guest Bloggers, Purging


21 Responses to How to Track Drop-Off Donations for Tax Purposes

  1. 1
    Making Our Life Matter says

    We never donate anything close to the amount needed to claim a deduction, but this is information I will store away for future consideration!

  2. 2
    Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings says

    I keep a little spreadsheet going of my monetary and tangible donations. It makes it so much easier to add it up for tax time!

  3. 3
    Lindsay says

    I recently started using You do have to pay for it, ($24.95), but it’s paid for itself with my first bag of donations. They also offer a free trial, so you can try it out ahead of time.

  4. 4
    Julia Ross says

    Habitat ReStore will take donations of used, or new, building supplies.

    • 4.1
      Vickie R. says

      Habitat for Humanity will take donations of building supplies (lumber, concrete, brick, stones, etc.)

  5. 6
    Jennifer Soucy says

    Actually, Habitat ReStore will take appliances too.

  6. 7
    Sabrina says

    I usually go conservative (Yard sale pricing) when it comes to estimating the value of an item. I recommend to my clients, to create a spreadsheet template and reuse it everytime you have a drop off. Print it out and attach it to the donation slip they give you. If you don’t have time to write up the detailed list, take a pic of each donated item (zooming in on the tags if they are clothing or name brand). Then, add the pictures to a file and write up the resale price later. Great post! Thanks for sharing/

  7. 8
    Kathy Forte says

    Thank you. This is a great post.

  8. 9
    Laci says

    Several items in the “do not donate” list are welcome donations at Habitat Restores.

  9. 10
    Michelle @Special Mom Space says

    Thank you for sharing these resources. It’s a good idea but the only problem I have is I can’t half recall the original cost of most of the clothing I’m giving away to be able to fairly assess how much it’s worth today!

  10. 11
    Linda Samuels says

    Fabulous post, Geralin! Thank you for the concise tips and excellent resources. When people are ready to let go, it’s good to resources in place to make that process easier. Great stuff!

  11. 12
    Amanda W. says

    The salvation army takes mattresses and appliances that still work. And my local library takes magazines because they sell them. I know homeless shelters or food banks will take food, dry goods and canned goods, that has not expired. So, as long as the items are not broken, dirty, or expired, someone somewhere will need them and be grateful for them.

  12. 13
    Tracy says

    Just to be clear, this pertains to you US audience only, right? I got excited there at first, thinking that I could do this in Alberta!

    • 13.1
      Laura says

      Yes that’s right Tracy, it’s very unfortunate for us Canadians 🙁

  13. 14
    vicki says

    I also disagree with some of the do not donate list. The homeless shelter was happy to take our old mattresses and couches. Many refugees are coming here with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

  14. 15
    Mary Brady says

    Geralin, Thank you taking the time to put all the resources and tips together to help other. Much appreciated! God Bless you!

  15. 16
    Kim says

    I found it is better financially, and easier, to donate. I use Turbo Tax and for instance they allow you to write off $4 for a hardcover book in good condition, which will give me back about $1 in tax refund (still far less than the $25 I paid for it). In a yard sale, if I was lucky enough to sell it, I might get 25 cents. It is far less work to keep a clipboard handy and write down each item as I toss in in the donation box, then to sort it out, price it, drag it out into the yard and back again when it doesn’t sell. I have always made good money on yard sales compared to my neighbors but it still isn’t worth the work. My time is much more valuable. Plus I feel good knowing I am helping others. The best way to save money on an item is not to buy it in the first place (my father’s wisdom).


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