There exists in the average American household a rather common malady wherein clothes, shoes, boots, coats, pants, shirts, toys, games, seasonal decor, sports equipment, electronics, appliances, computers, kitchen utensils, dishes and other useful items that are no longer needed seem to reproduce in the dark of night and fill cupboards, closets, attics and basements to the brim and beyond.
I call it Stuffitis -- a condition for which there is an easy, and surprisingly profitable, treatment. Should your home have contracted this malady, there are two effective ways to treat it: Sell the stuff, or donate the stuff.
SELL THE STUFF. There are several ways to do this, none of which guarantee success. I hosted my final garage sale several years ago to great disappointment. At the end of a very long, hot and disappointing day, we hauled all that was left to a donation bin, which was most of it.
But don't let my experiences dissuade you from selling your stuff. Depending on what your stuff is, you may find success with Craigslist, eBay or local buy-and-sell groups.
DONATE THE STUFF. Given my experience with stuff, I am a big fan of donating good-quality stuff to charities that I know are doing good in the world. That's my first reward. The second reward is that the IRS pays me to do it. Seriously.
By donating our used items in good or better condition to qualified charitable organizations and itemizing our income tax return, my husband and I easily claim thousands of dollars in valid tax deductions each year. And we do this confidently and legally because we follow the guidelines in a simple workbook called "Money for Your Used Clothing, Tax Year 2017" that is produced by our friends and tax professionals William R. Lewis and Connie S. Edmond.
These people know their stuff (no pun intended). Each year, they send teams of people to audit thrift and secondhand stores throughout the country and certify market value for used items.
The tricky thing here is that as individuals, we have no reliable way of determining what an item's market value is -- the amount the IRS will allow. If we value something too high, we set ourselves up for an audit. If we go too low, we'll pay more taxes than required.
"Money for Your Used Clothing, Tax Year 2017" is more than a valuation guide. It serves as a record of details on the charities that receive our donations and a place to staple the receipts we collect throughout the year. We keep photos to document our donations in this workbook as well. And now for the best part -- a benefit offered by no other organization, tax preparer or market value list that I know of:
Once I register our copy of "Money for Your Used Clothing Tax Year 2017" (instructions are clearly presented in the workbook, and they're easy), we have an audit-protection guarantee. That means if the values we use from this workbook on our 2017 tax return are called into question by the IRS via a tax audit and the IRS determines the values we claimed were overstated by up to $5,000 in donated value, Lewis, Edmonds and their tax team will handle all of the communications and pay all interest and penalties.
While this valuable publication retails for $25, once again this year, we are offering it to my "Everyday Cheapskate" readers for just $20 plus shipping. I highly recommend that you get every allowable deduction if you itemize your federal income tax return. That's the smart thing to do!
To get your copy of "Money for Your Used Clothing Tax Year 2017," call (800) 550-3502 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST. Or visit DebtProofLiving.com to order online.
REMINDER: Donations for tax year 2017 (the return you must file on or before April 17, 2018) must be made before midnight on Dec. 31, 2017.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at email@example.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.