Did you know that you can donate old glasses to charity?
Your optometrist or ophthalmologist prescribes corrective lenses to your exact needs, so your eyeglasses are uniquely yours. Your vision can change over time, necessitating a new prescription. Even though your old eyeglasses might no longer meet your needs, they can still benefit others. A number of different charities welcome glasses and frames donations.
In addition to feeling good about helping others by giving your used glasses for charity, you might be able to enjoy tax benefits. So, don’t underestimate the value of donated glasses to you and others.
Are Donated Eyeglasses Tax Deductible?
The Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct your charitable contributions from your income when you file your federal income tax return, if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A.
1. Standard vs. Itemized Deductions
You can deduct your cash contributions, as well as the fair market value of donated property, including prescription eyeglasses. Claiming this deduction will benefit you if the total amount of your itemized deductions exceeds the amount of your standard deduction.
Therefore, the IRS recommends calculating your taxes using both the standard deduction and using itemized deductions. You can then file your return using the method that gives you the larger deduction.
It is also worth noting that the IRS now permits those who claim standard deductions for the tax year 2021 to claim up to $300 per individual for cash donations. So, you could donate cash to your local eyeglass charity and benefit from that.
2. Fair Market Value of Glasses
Unless you are donating a brand new pair of eyeglasses, you can't deduct the retail value of your glasses. You can only deduct the eyeglasses' fair market value, which is what they are worth to a willing buyer.
Since the lenses are specific to you, finding a willing buyer with the same prescription is unlikely, so the lenses don't have much value. The frames tend to hold their value over time, since a buyer can put new lenses into the frames.
The organization you donate to might have a recommended value that you can use. Otherwise, arriving at the fair market value of your donated eyeglasses is at best an educated guess, but it is one you will have to make.
3. Qualifying Organizations Only
To be tax-deductible, your donation must be made to a qualifying organization. Qualifying organizations include those that are organized and operated for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes.
So, you will only benefit if you donate to a qualified charity. Donations to comparable Canadian, Mexican and Israeli charities might also qualify as tax deductible. And you can determine whether your charity is one by using the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.
Charitable Deduction Rules for 2021
For the 2021 tax year, the income tax deduction for those claiming standard deductions is $300 for single filers and $600 for those filing jointly. But it applies to those donating cash.
So, you may have to itemize your donations to get eyeglasses deductions. Currently the standard deduction thresholds are higher, at $12,550 for individual taxpayers and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly. Heads of households have an $18,800 threshold.
To claim the eyeglasses tax deduction, your charitable donations will need to be higher than the threshold.
Rules for Recording the Deduction
The IRS requires you to keep a record of your charitable contributions, including eyeglasses donations. The type of record depends on the value of the donation.
If the fair market value of your eyeglass donation was less than $250, ask for a receipt from the organization detailing the date of the donation and a description of the goods. However, a receipt is not required if you dropped the eyeglasses at an unmanned collection center. If the fair market value of your donated eyeglasses is $250 or more, you must get a written receipt.
- MedicalNewsToday: Donating glasses: Where to go
- IRS.Gov: The IRS Encourages Taxpayers to Consider Charitable Contributions
- IRS.Gov: Publication 561 (02/2020), Determining the Value of Donated Property
- IRS.Gov: Topic No. 506 Charitable Contributions
- IRS.Gov: IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2021
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.