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Hurricane Charley

Rules, tips enhance donations

Research and record keeping can help donors and charities be more effective.

By HELEN HUNTLEY
Published August 17, 2004

If you want to help communities hit by Hurricane Charley, send money, not food or clothing, Gov. Jeb Bush says.

TO DONATE MONEY

Adventist Community Services, 1-800-381-7171, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.

America's Second Harvest 1-800-771-2303, 35 East Wacker, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60601. www.secondharvest.org

American Red Cross, 1-800-435-7669, 818 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Catholic Charities, 1-800-919-9338, 1731 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314.

Christian Contractors Association, 1-800-278-7703, P.O. Box 15615, Brooksville, FL 34604.

Church World Service, 1-800-297-1516, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115.

Convoy of Hope, 1-800-988-0664 or 417 823-8998, 330 South Patterson, Springfield, MO 65802. www.convoyofhope.org

Florida Baptist Convention, 1-800-226-8584, Att. Accounting Department, Hurricane Charley, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207.

Florida Conference United Church of Christ, (407) 835-7501, 924 North Magnolia Ave., Suite 250, Orlando, FL 32803.

First United Methodist Church, (727) 894-4661, 212 Third St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Humane Society of the United States 1-888-259-5431, Southeast Regional Office, 1624 Metropolitan Circle, Suite B, Tallahassee, FL 32308.

Knights of Columbus, Florida State Council, (941) 497-5422, 848 Bayport Circle, Venice, FL 34392.

Lutheran Disaster Response, 1-800-638-3522, 8765 W Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631.

Mennonite Disaster Services, 717 859-2210, 1018 Main St. Akron, PA 17501. Or on the Web at www.mds.mennonite.net

Presbyterian Church, 1-800-872-3283, Att. PCUSA, Individual Remittance Processing, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15624-3700. On check write #9-2000-015.

Salvation Army, (813) 962-6611, Florida Divisional Headquarters, 5631 Van Dyke Road, Lutz, FL 33558.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, 770 410-6133, P.O. Box 116543 Atlanta, GA 30368. On the Web at www.namb.net/dr

The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, (813) 855-4233.

United Methodist Committee on Relief, 1-800-554-8583, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115.

Volunteer Florida Foundation, 1-800-825-3786, Hurricane Charley Relief Effort, 401 S Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32301. Check the Web for information at www.volunteerfloridafoundation.org

DONATE ITEMS

The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, (813) 855-4233.

VOLUNTEERS

The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, (813) 855-4233.

Volunteer Florida Foundation, 1-800-825-3786, Hurricane Charley Relief Effort, 401 S Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32301. Check the Web for information at www.volunteerfloridafoundation.org

You may be able to help the victims of Hurricane Charley and do yourself a favor at the same time.

Donations to qualified charities involved in the relief effort will cut your income tax bill if you itemize deductions on your tax return.

The key is that the charity must have been approved by the IRS to receive tax-deductible donations. Giving money or goods directly to disaster victims may make you feel good, but it won't win you any bonus points with the IRS.

Hurricane relief organizations are asking for cash rather than property. Charities prefer gifts they can use in disaster relief efforts worldwide, but you can designate your check for Hurricane Charley relief in Florida.

"We will honor it if they designate it, but it's strongly discouraged," said Ray Steen, spokesman for the American Red Cross. "We were able to respond to this disaster because people previously made undesignated donations to the disaster relief fund."

It is a good idea to get a receipt or hold onto a canceled check as proof of any donation you hope to deduct. Save your cash register receipt if you donate through retailers such as Publix and Winn-Dixie, which are allowing customers to add donations to their bills.

If you give $250 or more, you must have a receipt or letter from the charity that notes the value of any goods or services you received in exchange for your donation.

If you want to make a property donation and can find a group willing to accept it, the deduction is based on fair market value for individuals and on actual cost for businesses that donate inventory. A written appraisal is required if the property is worth $5,000 or more.

If you volunteer in the hurricane relief effort, the value of your labor is not deductible, but your expenses might be. To deduct meals and lodging, the trip cannot involve any element of recreation or vacation, said Bob Trinz, a senior tax analyst at RIA, a tax information and software provider.

"You should get a letter from the charity attesting to your presence there," he said.

Even if you don't get a deduction, direct your donations to charities with a good track record of delivering help in times of disaster. Before giving to less familiar groups, find out about their work.

Membership in National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is a good sign. This organization promotes cooperation in disasters to avoid duplication of effort. A membership list is available on its Web site (www.nvoad.org) and the Web site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov)

Another good sign is financial disclosure. A legitimate charity should willingly share information about its program and finances. At GuideStar (www.guidestar.org) you can look up how much of a charity's money goes to deliver services and how much goes to administration.

All of the organizations listed on the GuideStar site have met IRS criteria for tax deductibility of donations. Many religious organizations also qualify even if they are not part of the GuideStar listings. If an organization claims to be faith-based, GuideStar recommends asking to see an official listing for it in denominational publications.

[Last modified August 17, 2004, 01:16:40]

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