Shoes, Blenders, Toasters and More— Deducting Donated Household Items

Deducting donated household items is not as simple as it seems and may actually be more trouble than it’s worth.

Last Reviewed: November 1, 2023

Shoes and pants. Toasters and blenders and recliners—people often ask about deducting these donated household items.

What do you do?

First, you cannot tell them what the items are worth. According to tax law, that’s something donors must determine.

So do you encourage them to claim a tax deduction?

Attorney and CPA Frank Sommerville suggests kindly encouraging donors to forego trying to substantiate a donation in household goods and clothing.

That’s because it’s a time-consuming process that rarely approaches a donor’s break-even point. And that assuming the items are properly itemized.

“Each and every item has to be assigned a fair market value, which a donor could spend quite a long time figuring,” Sommerville says “They should think for a second of doing that for each pair of pants in that bag. For every pair of shoes they’re giving.”

To issue—or not issue—a receipt

Additionally, the state of the item must be accounted for, with photographs recommended to prove the item is in good condition or better. Individual items are to be acknowledged by a charity representative, line by line, not as part of a unit.

Moreover, if your church is like most charitable organizations, you aren’t equipped to issue the required receipts, nor are those volunteers or staff receiving the donations authorized, in most cases, to open bags and assess items.

But let’s say your church thrift store is equipped to issue those receipts and is willing to walk with the donor through the process?

Click here to go deeper on noncash property donations—especially those gifts with considerable market value.

“Even then, it’s not worth it in a lot of ways,” Sommerville says. “The cost of compliance is just simply more than the tax benefit a donor is going to receive for noncash gifts of household items. If a donor is going to itemize, for that $1,000 he or she spends that time on substantiating, the donor might be able to deduct $200. To get that qualifying receipt, that’s probably the donor’s return.”

Under tax law, over 94 percent of taxpayers will not itemize, giving more reason for donors to avoid the compliance issues.

While only taxpayers truly can say what the deduction is worth to them, Sommerville is certain the profitability isn’t present for your church—hence the few that provide documentation to donors.

“You’re just not generating that much money out of it,” he says.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay