ATLANTA (WTOC) - Georgia's Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who serves as Georgia's charities regulator, is offering advice to individuals that wish to donate to charitable organizations this holiday season.
Secretary Kemp said in a statement, "During this holiday season, let's make the most of our contributions to individuals and families in need. Many wish to give back to those affected by tragedies through charitable donations, and I ask that donors familiarize themselves with an organization before giving. Charitable donations have the most impact when given to groups that spend responsibly. Advance research can do a lot to ensure gifts are being used properly."
Secretary Kemp offered a number of tips for charitable giving:
-Research the charities that you wish to give to. The percentage that you contribute to the company can go towards other benefits and not necessarily the organization's stated mission, and this varies from organization to organization.
- A number of online resources can help you research charities. The Better Business Bureau (www.give.org) and GuideStar (guidestar.org) provide detailed information about nonprofit organizations.
- Be wary of phone solicitors asking for contributions. If asked by phone, ask the solicitor to put all of the information in writing and provide complete information on the charitable organization. Also ask the solicitor if they are a paid solicitor or a volunteer.
-Never give debit card, credit card, or bank information to a solicitor over the phone. Also be cautious of a solicitor willing to rush over to your residence or workplace to pick up your contribution.
- If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. "Tax exempt," "non-profit," and "tax deductible" mean different things. Just because a solicitor says their organization is non-profit or tax-exempt, that does not mean you can legally deduct your contribution. Only "tax deductible" means your contribution is deductible on your income tax return. Make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your contribution and states that the contribution is tax deductible. The IRS website (www.irs.gov/charities) has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax deductible charitable contributions.
- Many charitable solicitors ask for clothing donations and other household contributions. IRS rules concerning valuations and receipts have changed over the years, so make sure you are up to date by visiting www.irs.gov/charities/contributors.
-Be wary, not all organizations with charitable sounding names are charities.
- Watch out for organizations that use questionable techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or unpaid invoices even after you have turned them down for donations. You are not obligated to pay for or return items.
-Many police and fire departments are funded with tax dollars. If contacted by a solicitor, contact your local department and ask if the funds are being used to fund the local department.
- Be skeptical of organizations which list only post office boxes, "PMB" addresses, or mail drop suite numbers.
Citizens can research organizations registered in Georgia by visiting the Secretary of State's website at www.sos.ga.gov. Complaints can be filed against charitable organizations on the Secretary of State's Professional Licensing Boards Division website at http://www.sos.ga.gov/plb. If you have additional questions, please call the Georgia Secretary of State's Professional Licensing Boards Division, which oversees charitable organizations, at 478.207.2440.