Giving away a mattress beats having it take up several cubic feet in a landfill. If you can claim a tax write-off for the mattress, it's a win-win, but getting the deduction isn't a sure thing. The Internal Revenue Service has tougher rules on deductions for donated property than it does for giving away cash.
You can't claim a write-off for a mattress or any other household item unless it's in "good used condition" or better when you give it away. That doesn't prevent you from donating it, but you won't get any reward other than the satisfaction of doing good. The IRS does make an exception for donations worth more than $500, even if they're in worse condition. To use that loophole, however, you need a professional appraisal.
You might be thrilled just to get the mattress out of the house, but that doesn't excuse dumping a torn-up, worn-out mattress at the local donation center. The Salvation Army, for example, doesn't accept furniture that's soiled, ripped or torn. Goodwill won't accept mattresses at all, though it will take bed frames. You may have a friend or relative who's willing to take the mattress off your hands, but you can't claim a write-off for gifts to an individual.
You can only claim a deduction if you give the mattress to an IRS-qualified organization. The IRS has a database online you can search through to identify the right groups. To prove your donation, you should get a receipt identifying the charity, describing the mattress and stating the date and place you gave it away. To take the write-off you have to itemize deductions on Schedule A. If you take the standard deduction, you're out of luck.
If you don't have a friend who needs a mattress and it isn't quite good enough for donating, there are still better options than throwing it away. Offering the mattress on Freecycle or craigslist may turn up someone willing to take it off your hands. Some groups, such as Ohio Mattress Recovery or Eco-Cycle, will recycle a mattress, taking whatever components are still usable. Even they may turn down a mattress that's full of bedbugs, though.
A Durham, NC resident, Fraser has written about law, starting a business, balancing your budget and fighting evictions, among other legal and financial topics.