Mary Hunt: Get paid to donate your things to charity
If you moved 12 years ago and still have not finished unpacking, you have too much stuff.
If you rent a storage unit because you're completely out of basement, attic and garage space, you have too much stuff.
If you could use some extra cash in the next few months, you have the incentive you need to turn your extraneous stuff back into cash.
Set ground rules. Before you haul off and get rid of everything in sight, establish ground rules to determine what you don't need or want in your life. Here are three suggestions:
1. I will possess only those things I find useful or bring incredible beauty to my life.
2. If I haven't worn it in a year, it's gone.
3. If I haven't used it in a year, I probably don't need it. I'll get rid of it.
Purge. Go through every drawer, closet and cupboard, and evaluate. Question everything. Trash what has lost all value, and then move quickly to turn the rest into cash.
Cash by selling. Used items in good condition sell for about 25 percent of the original price. Items priced under $20 sell well at a garage, yard or tag sale. And items priced more than $20 do better when offered through local classifieds, consignment shops, second-hand stores or antique dealers.
Cash by donation. Perhaps you'd rather donate your stuff than send it to the landfill or sell it. If so, you can still realize cash for your efforts, provided you know how to work the program.
If you itemize your tax return, you are allowed to deduct the fair market value of items you donate from your adjusted gross income.
Lose the hassle. Certified Public Accountant William R. Lewis publishes a booklet called "Money for Your Used Clothing." The booklet lists current, reliable values for more than 900 items of clothing and household goods commonly donated to charity.
The values are obtained from annual surveys of consignment and thrift stores, conforming to IRS requirements for donated items.
The information is guaranteed in two ways. First, Lewis assures taxpayers who itemize they will save at least $250 on their tax bill or their money back (we like that!). Secondly, Lewis will pay any interest and penalties if the IRS disallows the deduction.
The values add up quickly. Even magazines can be donated, and properly valued. In fact, Lewis estimates that the average taxpayer who follows the guidelines, realizes $900 in additional tax savings per year.