Skip to main content

1. Donate to charity

The IRS encourages you to give money to charity—if you itemize, you can take that amount off your gross income when you’re figuring out your taxes. And, in 2020, even if you do not itemize your deductions, qualified cash donations up to $300 can be deducted. In 2021, this amount for those taking the standard deduction is increased to $600 if you file married filing jointly. If you’re supporting a cause, you can do so feeling good about your contribution—and reduce your taxable income at the same time. The IRS has strengthened its documentation requirements, however, so get a receipt for any donations to avoid the danger of having them disallowed in case of an audit. Be sure to read about Charitable Contributions You Think You Can Claim But Can’t to avoid any surprises.

Our TurboTax Live experts look out for you. Expert help your way: get help as you go, or hand your taxes off. You can talk live to tax experts online for unlimited answers and advice OR, have a dedicated tax expert do your taxes for you, so you can be confident in your tax return. Enjoy up to an additional $20 off when you get started with TurboTax Live

2. Give locally

When you fund local charities and nonprofits, you not only get a tax break, you also improve your community. Research what your local needs are and contribute toward recognized charities that meet those needs. It’s a good feeling to know that your donations are making sure your fellow residents are able to get a hot meal at a soup kitchen or that students with financial need will still be able to attend your local community college.

3. Fund individuals

Giving to individuals raising funds for a charitable cause can be particularly rewarding because you have direct knowledge of what the funds are designated for. For example, if a friend is going on a three-day bike ride to raise money for a cause and has a fund-raising goal of $3,000, giving her a big boost toward that number can allow her to concentrate on her training instead of fundraising—while you get to take that cash as a tax deduction.

4. Environmental causes

When the planet is healthier, everyone benefits. The IRS offers a number of incentives to be environmentally friendly, with tax breaks for donations to environmental causes or for increasing the energy efficiency of your home. Laws on the latter change frequently, so consult the current year's guidelines before claiming the deductions on your return.

TheStreet Recommends

Maximize your deductions and get every tax break you qualify for when you file your taxes with TurboTax Deluxe. We'll search over 350 tax deductions and credits to make sure you get the maximum refund possible. Start for free, and get up to an additional $10 off TurboTax Deluxe when you file. 

5. Sports and entertainment

Not every charitable donation has to go for a weighty cause like saving the planet. Local sports teams, art centers, or community theaters may be registered non-profits with the IRS, meaning your donations there are tax-deductible as well. They help keep the arts alive in your community and allow residents opportunities to participate in these activities. Note that if you get any benefits from the donations—such as free tickets—that value should be subtracted from the write-off.

6. Volunteer work

You can’t deduct the time you spend performing volunteer work from your taxes. A seamstress who spends 10 hours making costumes for the local nonprofit’s theater production, for example, can’t subtract that hourly rate from her income. However, if she purchases fabric and other supplies for the costumes, she can deduct those costs as a charitable contribution. She also can deduct miles driven for charitable purposes, although the deduction is much lower than the standard mileage rate for business purposes.

7. Caring for elderly parents

If you’re caring for an elderly parent, you may be able to declare him as a dependent and deduct expenses relating to his care. The sticking point is the income level of the parent. He can't earn more than the annual exemption amount (not including Social Security Benefits) and must get at least half of his support from you. However, he doesn't have to live with you—money was given to help fund a stay in an assisting living facility or for a caretaker also qualifies.

Remember, with TurboTax, we'll ask you simple questions about your life and help you fill out all the right tax forms. With TurboTax, you can be confident your taxes are done right, from simple to complex tax returns, no matter what your situation.