How to Donate a Car to the Society for the Blind

By Bill Herrfeldt

  • Overview

    The Society for the Blind is a nonprofit, 501c3 agency that has been serving the needs of the blind of the Sacramento, California area for over 50 years. The Society helps the blind gain confidence and self-esteem by teaching them how to adapt to daily life. Much of the agency's support comes from its automobile-donation program, which is one of the most successful such programs in Northern California.
    • Step 1

      Telephone the Society for the Blind directly, or complete the form that you will find on the agency's website (follow the link in Resources.) You will be asked to provide basic information, such as the make and year of the automobile, if it is operating, problems it may have, and if you have proof of ownership or the title. You will also be asked to list times convenient to you when the car can be picked up. (You can increase the car's value to the agency by delivering it to the agency rather than having it towed.)
    • Step 2

      Ask for proof of your gift, either when the Society for the Blind arrives to pick up your vehicle or at the charity (if you deliver the car yourself). Ordinarily, you will receive acknowledgment of a $500 gift, per Step 3. If you believe that your donation exceeds that amount, make arrangements with the charity for it to prepare a receipt for a higher amount once the automobile is sold.

    • Step 3

      Understand the law for deducting your contribution. Until 2005, it was up to you to estimate the value of the automobile you were donating to charity, and to take that amount as a deduction on your tax returns. However, people were routinely taking advantage of the law by overestimating the value of their cars for tax purposes, so the IRS closed that loophole. Now, you are limited to a deduction of $500 or the amount the charity realized from its sale of your vehicle (if it was higher). To take that larger deduction, you will need written verification of the sale from the charity. Unfortunately, since this change went into effect, charities have received about 1/3 fewer cars than they did before the law was changed.
    • Step 4

      Be prepared to give the Society the title for the automobile whose transfer you have acknowledged. If you cannot find the car's title, the Society will provide you with forms to sign that are a substitute for it. In all cases, be sure that the lien has been released prior to making the gift (if it appears on your title).
    • Step 5

      Keep your perspective. A tax deduction should not be the primary reason for making a contribution of your automobile to charity. The real reason for giving is that you will know that the Society for the Blind will continue doing good works in California as a result of your decision.
    • Skill: Moderate

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