Find Tax Benefits from Your Junk

This time of year many families decide to clean out attics, basements and closets of items that they no longer need or want.

Spring cleaning is often followed by summer garage, yard and sidewalk sales — hoping that one family’s trash is another’s treasure.

However, when all is said and done the amount of money you may pocket from such a sale is, for my money, really not worth the time, effort and “agita” involved.

Regardless of the price you put on an item, buyers will insist on negotiating the price down to pennies. You will never get the full value of the items you are selling — perhaps about 20%-25% of what they are worth. Chances of selling everything are slim. There is always stuff left over, often in worse condition than when you started out because of excessive handling by browsers.

And do you really want strangers trampling through your yard or garage, and maybe even your house?

There is a much better way to get rid of the unwanted but still useable items that will put money in your pocket. Donate the items to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, your church or library, or any other qualified charitable organization and claim a tax deduction.

It is important to note before going any further that you will receive absolutely no tax benefit from donating your used books, clothes, toys, and household items to a church or charity unless you are able to itemize on Schedule A.

The amount of money that ends up in your pocket depends on your tax bracket. If you are in the 25% tax bracket you will bank 25% of the value of the items donated. If you are also able to itemize and claim a deduction for charitable contributions on your state income tax return as well you should add together your federal and state tax brackets to determine your “profit.”

Take my word — you will probably end up with more money in your pocket by donating your stuff instead of trying to sell it. The only problem is that you will have to wait until you file your tax return to get the money.

You can only deduct used items that are in at least "good" condition (the tax code does not define what is considered “good”).

Donations of clothing and household items with a minimal monetary value, such as used socks or underwear, are also not deductible.

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