New legislation has passed allowing you to deduct cash contributions made to the Haiti earthquake relief effort between January 12 and February 28, 2010 on your 2009 individual income tax return. Cash contributions include amounts charged to credit cards and amounts sent to charities by text on a cell phone. This law applies only to cash contributions; property contributions such as clothing, food, etc. will be deductible in 2010.
Federal law requires that taxpayers keep a record of any deductible donations they make. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the recordkeeping requirement if it shows the name of the donee organization, the date of the contribution and the amount of the contribution. For cash contributions made by other means, be sure to keep a bank record, such as a cancelled check, or a receipt from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Publication 526 has further details on the recordkeeping rules for cash contributions.
Donors should take care to make sure their contributions go to qualified charities. Most organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible donations are listed in a searchable online database available on IRS.gov under Search for Charities. Some organizations, such as churches or governments, may be qualified even if they are not listed on IRS.gov. Donors can find out more about organizations helping Haitian earthquake victims from agencies such as USAID. Please also note that contributions to foreign organizations generally are not deductible.