Ga. Secretary of State offers consumer tips on charitable giving - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Be smart about charitable giving

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ATLANTA (WTOC) -

Donors may consider giving to charities during the holiday season or before the year's end for a tax deduction.

Georgia's Secretary of State Brian Kemp and regulator of charities statewide, stressed the importance of researching charities and knowing IRS tax rules related to tax deductions.

He offered these consumer tips for charitable giving:

Research charities before giving a donation. Percentages vary across organizations on what they spend on fund-raising activities, employee salaries, or expenses that do not directly support the charity's mission.

Use online resources such as Better Business Bureau's give.org, GuideStar guidestar.org for more information about nonprofit organizations. Also, review the organization's own website.

Be wary callers asking for donations over the phone. Ask the caller to put their request in writing and provide all the information about the charitable program. Ask if the person asking for the donation is a volunteer or a paid solicitor.

Never give out credit card, debit card or bank account information to someone asking for donations over the phone, Kemp warns. Be cautious of couriers willing to rush to your home or business to pick up your contribution.

Make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service if you're planning on including that deduction on your filing. Make sure you get a receipt that shows the contribution amount and that it is tax deductible. Search the IRS website's database at irs.gov/charities for organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Get familiar with the latest IRS rules on receipts and charitable giving at irs.gov/charities/contributors. Many charities ask for contributions of clothing, household items and vehicles.

Organizations that have names similar to well-known charities may not be a charity. Know what group is asking for contributions.

Be cautious of groups that require sending unordered merchandise or invoices after they are turned down for a donation. Consumers are not under any obligation to pay for or return items they get under these circumstances.

Most police and fire departments are funded by tax dollars. But their unions and social organizations may solicit donations by using paid fund-raisers. If an organization using the words "police" or "firefighter" solicits donations, call your local police or fire department to verify that the group actually supports the department and ask how much of the contributions are used for their programs.

Be skeptical of organizations that only provide post office box addresses or mail drop suite numbers.

To file a complaint against a charitable organization, go to the Secretary of State's Professional Licensing Boards Division website: http://www.sos.ga.gov/plb.

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