Tax Deduction for Donating Glasses to Charity

by Mike Parker
People around the world suffer from poor vision.

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 donated eyeglasses, and in addition to feeling good about helping others, you might be able to take a tax deduction.

Itemized Deductions

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. You can deduct your cash contributions, as well as the fair market value of property, including eyeglasses. Claiming this deduction will benefit you if the total amount of your itemized deductions exceeds the amount of your standard deduction. The IRS recommends figuring your taxes using both the standard deduction and itemized deductions, and filing your return using the method that gives you the larger deduction.

Fair Market Value

Unless you are donating a brand new pair of eyeglasses, you can't deduct the retail value of your glasses. You can 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, 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.

Qualifying Organization

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. Donations to comparable Canadian, Mexican and Israeli charities might also qualify as tax deductible. The IRS maintains a complete list of all qualifying organizations through its Exempt Organizations Select Check online tool.

Record Keeping

The IRS requires you to keep a record of your charitable contributions, including eyeglass 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. 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 acknowledgement from the organization.

About the Author

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.

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